Playing conditions were troublesome for competitors in the first round of the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge. While overnight rains did their best to soften the golf course, consistent winds and sunshine dried out Colonial Country Club as it averaged nearly one stroke over par on Thursday.
"The course is playing harder than it does in a typical year here," said 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler after an opening round of 4-under 66. "I felt like I did a really good job of managing myself around the golf course. Any time you make no bogeys, it's going to be a good round."
Despite the difficulties, Scheffler was not the only player to effectively navigate his way around the property. He is joined by seven others at the 4-under lead, and closely behind are fellow Texans Jordan Spieth, Ryan Palmer and Harry Higgs as all three found their way into red figures by day's end. Spieth is the lone player mentioned who was on the course in the afternoon wave, and he will do his best to climb up the leaderboard Friday morning.
"Falling a little behind puts a little bit of pressure on tomorrow before the wind comes in on the weekend to certainly move up the board," said Spieth. "You want to hang around when you're going to get these 20- and 30-mile-an-hour winds on the weekend. I think tomorrow, with the wind being really low in the morning, I'm looking to take advantage of the golf course."
T1. Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson and five others (-4): It is a party at the top of the leaderboard, and while Scheffler and Nick Taylor were top two in strokes gained approach on Thursday, Reed's presence is extremely encouraging to see. Struggling this year, the 31-year-old has showed subtle signs of the rediscovery of his form.
Reed has yet to connect on a top-20 finish this year, but he his name has flashed up on leaderboards periodically. He was in contention at both The Players Championship and the Mexico Open. After the PGA Championship where he put together his best iron performance since the 2021 Memorial, perhaps this is the week the nine-time winner finally gets back on track. He ranked second in strokes gained tee to green on Thursday and outside the top half in putting, so if he is able to get the flat stick to cooperate moving forward, Reed should have a great chance to reach double-digit victories on the PGA Tour.
T9. Kevin Na, Davis Riley, Scott Stallings and four others (-3): Cameron Young and Mito Pereira are highly-lauded rookies, but it is more than overdue to include Riley in the conversation. Ever since his playoff loss to Sam Burns at the Valspar Championship, the Alabama product has played himself into contention on a weekly basis.
The 25-year-old entered Colonial having connected on four consecutive top-15 finishes. The most recent came just last week at the PGA Championship where he impressed in his championship debut and ultimately finished in a tie for 13th. Young, Pereira and Riley have separated themselves in the rookie of the year discussions, and if Riley can be the first to breakthrough for a victory, he will propel himself to the top of many's lists.
Justin Thomas looks sluggish
He said all the right things leading up to the Charles Schwab Challenge, but a major championship hangover felt inevitable for PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas. Signing for a 1-over 71 on Thursday, the 29-year-old is still very much in contention after his irons were lackluster in the calm morning conditions.
Leading the field in strokes gained off the tee and ranking inside the top 20 of strokes gained putting, Thomas' typical strength of approach play was his greatest weakness on Thursday. That was particularly true on the par 3s as the American played those four holes in 4 over, one of which included a tee shot which found the water and another which found ... a parking lot?
Spieth's love affair with Colonial
As is typical for Spieth, Thursday was a rollercoaster as his first round featured just about everything -- from simply ridiculous recovery shots to missing short putts. All in all, it added up to a 1-under 69 as the 28-year-old has positioned himself nicely to add to his already stellar résumé at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Coming into this week, Spieth had teed it up nine times prior on the Perry Maxwell design. In that span, he had captured a victory in 2016, three runner-up finishes and four additional top-15 finishes. He appears well on his way to adding a similar result, but the putter will need to start to cooperate as he ranked outside the top 100 in strokes gained putting in Round 1.
Updated odds and picks
Here's a look at the new odds after 18 holes, via Caesars Sportsbook.
- Scottie Scheffler: 9/2
- Webb Simpson: 10-1
- Jordan Spieth: 12-1
- Chris Kirk: 12-1
- Patrick Reed: 14-1
- Harold Varner III: 14-1
- Kevin Na: 16-1
- Viktor Hovland: 22-1
- Davis Riley: 25-1
- Collin Morikawa: 25-1
- Cam Davis: 28-1
It felt as if Hovland and Spieth both got away with robbery in Round 1 as both played relatively poor and were still able to sign for rounds of 1-under 69. They are both off in the morning and should face lighter winds compared to those who will play in the afternoon hours. Beyond them on the odds board, Max Homa at 35-1 is an intriguing option as his ball-striking abandoned him for parts of his opening round. Homa is a two-time winner this season and given his propensity to play difficult golf courses well, he can not be dismissed.