This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.
Charles Schwab Challenge
Colonial Country Club
Fort Worth, TX
The PGA Tour heads to Texas this week as the Tour's nearly three-month hiatus comes to an end. It goes without saying that this situation is unlike anything we've dealt with before and no one knows exactly what will happen in the coming weeks, but it's sure nice to have a sporting event that doesn't involve punching or gasoline. From a fantasy perspective, these next few weeks are not going to be easy. Not only have we lost all recent form, but we have new variables in play, such as the obvious lack of crowds and the not-so-obvious mental effects of playing in the midst of a pandemic. Those that don't want to deal with the latter might skip certain events, but nearly every top players in in the field this week. How will those guys perform? Do we have any idea which guys are struggling with the decision to play or not? The immediate answer is no, but perhaps we'll get this figured out as the weeks wear on. As for this week, we have plenty of course history, but again, with new variables in play, course history might not matter as much. With that said, it's just about all we have this week.
Rory McIlroy (10-1)
The field is loaded this week and there are several new variables in play, but one thing remains the same – Rory McIlroy atop the odds chart. This will be McIlroy's first time at this event, and with so many big guns in the field, he might normally be second or third favorite, but with the conditions leveling the field somewhat this week, the only options for the odds-makers was to default to talent and McIlroy wins that race almost every week.
Jon Rahm (12-1)
An interesting note, the top-three on the odds chart this week are exactly the same as they were heading into The PLAYERS, which again goes to show that the odds-makers are leaning heavily on the player this week, not necessarily anything else, such as course history. Speaking of course history though, Rahm has played very well on this track in two of three starts, with a runner-up, a top-5. At 12-1, the odds might be a little light however as there's just so much we don't know about this week.
Justin Thomas (16-1)
Like McIlroy, this will be Thomas' first start at this event, furthering the notion that the odds-makers aren't paying much attention to the past. Thomas was in the midst of a strong season prior to the break in play, but just like everyone else, we have no idea how he'll come out of this hiatus. One train of thought on how these guys will handle this situation is that the younger guys, who don't have families might have an easier time as they'll have less to be worried about. I'm not sure that'll hold true, but it does make some sense.
THE NEXT TIER
Brooks Koepka (30-1)
I'm fully aware that Koepka does not play his best outside of the majors and I'm also aware that prior to the break, Koepka was well off his game, but I doubt you'll have a chance to get him at 30-1 again anytime soon. If Koepka had no history here then I wouldn't give him much thought, but he posted a runner-up finish here in his first and only start in 2018. I wouldn't use him in a one-and-done format this week, but he might be worth a wager at this price.
Sungjae Im (30-1)
It's tough to carry momentum from one week to the next, but what about from one month to the next? We might find out if it's possible this week as Im was on fire when we last saw him. Im enters this week atop the FedEx standings, with a win and a solo-3rd in his two most recent starts on the PGA Tour. Im did not fare well in his only start at this event, but I dare say he's a different player than he was 12 months ago.
Jordan Spieth (40-1)
It will be interesting to see how Spieth comes out of the break. Perhaps no one needed time off as Spieth, who is mired in a prolonged slumped. Will the new conditions help him snap out of his funk? This week should be a decent barometer, as he loves this course. If he can't play well here, it could continue to be a long year. Spieth won this event in 2016 and has placed inside the top 10 in five of seven starts here.
Kevin Na (60-1)
I'm a little confused about Na's long odds this week. Na notched a win earlier this season and his form was decent before the break (he posted a top-10 at the WGC Mexico event). He's also the defending champion this week, but that wasn't his only strong finish here. He posted a T4 two years ago on this track. You'll rarely see a resume like that sitting at 60-1.
Viktor Hovland (60-1)
Like Koepka at 30-1, you aren't going to get odds like this on Hovland for very long as he's too talented to lay in the weeds much longer. Hovland had somewhat of a breakout moment in February as he picked up his first PGA Tour victory, but that came at an opposite-field event and he didn't get as much attention as he would have at a full-field event. With that said, his moment in the spotlight is coming as he's bound to take down a full field sooner rather than later.
Highly-owned Pick: Sungjae Im - I'm going with the theory that not many OAD players will want to burn a big name this week, which leaves guys in the middle of the pack, like Im as the best prospects. Im is on my short list this week as he's proving himself to be quite the workhorse and now he's got the confidence of a winner on the PGA Tour.
Moderately-owned Pick: Jordan Spieth - Keeping with the above theory, Spieth could be quite popular this week, given that his track record here is hard to ignore. He's also in that sweet spot where you aren't worried about burning him, yet he has enough talent to win. The question, of course, is, can he get out of his head long enough to post a quality finish?
Lightly-owned Pick: Kevin Tway - Tway has been a roller coaster since joining the PGA Tour and when we last saw his, he was on the bottom of the ride, but perhaps the break will prove as a needed reset. His track record here would indicate that he's in for a good showing this week as he's posted top-20s in each of his past three starts here.
Buyer Beware: Rory McIlroy - This isn't a statement on his prospects this week so much as the risk involved in using McIlroy off a three-month break. We have no idea how these guys will respond to the new environment, which means this isn't the time to take a chance on a guy like McIlroy, or any big gun for that matter. Some guys are bound to play better without crowds, but we have no idea if McIlroy will be one of those guys.
Last Week: N/A (N/A) $0 Season - $2,517,246
This Week's Pick: Sungjae Im - This pick came down to Im and Na, but I'm going with Im on a hunch. What else is there to go on this week? Seriously, I liked the way Im was rounding into form prior to the break and I'm hoping that he remains sharp. Na is also a good pick, but I'm wondering if there is something that I'm missing, as his odds seem longer than they should be.
Last Week: N/A (N/A) - Streak - 8
This Week: Jordan Spieth - Some might see this as a risky pick, but although Spieth has been off his top game for a quite a while now, he's had little problem making cuts. He's only missed one cut this season and considering his stellar track record at this event, I'd be shocked to see him miss the cut this week.