After nearly three months, the PGA Tour is back in action.
This week's Charles Schwab Challenge marks the first official competition since The Players was canceled after the opening round. While the intermittent weeks have been filled with tales from player quarantine and a pair of high-profile exhibitions, the world's best are once again playing for keeps this week at Colonial Country Club.
Kevin Na defends his title against a field that includes each of the top five players in the world, highlighted by current and former world No. 1s Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas as they make their tournament debuts. While the tournament typically boasts a 120-man field, the size has been increased to 148 players this week because of the playing opportunities lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With competitive golf officially on the horizon, it's time to break down the potential contenders this week in Fort Worth. From the defending champ to former winners and seasoned vets, here are some notable players who seem well-equipped to tackle the Horrible Horseshoe:
Jon Rahm ($11,000 on DraftKings): Of all the top-ranked players convening this week in the Lone Star State, Rahm feels like the most reliable play. There are more unknowns than usual coming off a three-month competitive layoff, but Rahm's form prior to the pandemic deserves note as he was essentially a top-10 mainstay for nearly a year. His form at Colonial includes a runner-up in his 2017 debut and a fifth-place showing in 2018, with half of his career rounds going for 68 or better. Dating back to the U.S. Open, he has more wins (3) than finishes outside the top 15 (2).
Webb Simpson ($9,800): Simpson is one of the few players whose pre-pandemic consistency could rival that of Rahm. His playoff victory in Phoenix highlighted a run of five straight top-10 finishes, one that also included a playoff loss in Sea Island. His record at Colonial has been feast-or-famine, but the good has been outstanding: a T-3 finish and fifth-place showing sandwiched in between three missed cuts. Simpson had four straight rounds of 68 or better en route to a near-miss in 2016, and his exemplary iron play and short game that has sparked his recent resurgence should be especially useful this week at Hogan's Alley.
Jordan Spieth ($8,000): Yes, that Jordan Spieth. The three-time major champ has been searching for the better part of a year, but Colonial has been good to him almost without exception. His runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017 surrounded a stirring victory that helped him shake some cobwebs from his 2016 Masters collapse, and the Texas product has finished outside the top 15 just once in seven career starts. His all-time Colonial scoring average is a sparkling 67.79, and no player has gained more strokes against the field at this event over the last 10 years than Spieth. While he was sluggish to start the year outside of his top-10 finish at Pebble Beach, all signs point to a big week for a player who has dipped all the way to 56th in the world rankings.
Kevin Na ($7,600): Na's victory here last year was capped by a clinical 66 in the final round, but it's hardly his lone highlight in Fort Worth. He also finished fourth the year before, and three of his last eight rounds at Colonial have gone seriously low - a closing 61 in 2019 and a pair of 62s. Na has a total of five top-10 finishes in 12 prior appearances, and his early-season results included three top-20s in his six most recent starts. It's not the most consistent run of form, but combined with his eye-catching course history the defending champ seems like a strong lineup consideration.
Ryan Palmer ($7,400): No one in the field knows this course better than Palmer, a Colonial member who has been playing the course regularly in the weeks leading up to the event. Palmer often puts his local knowledge to use at this event, finishing T-6 or better four times since 2012 including a T-3 finish in 2016 when he played in the final group. Last year's T-6 finish included all four rounds in the 60s, and Palmer's quietly consistent 2020 campaign included six finishes of T-21 or better in eight starts before competition ground to a halt.
Steve Stricker ($6,200): There are worse ways to round out a six-man lineup than with Stricker, a winner in 2009 who hasn't finished outside the top 50 in five appearances since. The current U.S. Ryder Cup captain still plays regularly on the PGA Tour, including made cuts at both Riviera and Bay Hill before the Tour's hiatus. He cracked the top 10 here as recently as 2017, when he tied for seventh, and his last appearance included an opening-round 65.