The PGA Tour is home to the elite players of men’s golf. Incredibly talented golfers work their whole careers just to try and get a start on the PGA Tour, such is the level of competition for a place every week. Just five tournaments on the PGA Tour are granted invitational status in which places are allocated by the event organiser. The Charles Schwab Challenge is one such tournament.
The tournament was founded in 1946 as the Colonial National Invitational after the sole host venue, Colonial Country Club. It has changed name numerous times over the years for sponsorship reasons and it has seen the great and the good of golf compete. But through it all, Colonial has remained the sole star.
2023: Emiliano Grillo
The 2023 edition of this event at Colonial proved to be a tough renewal, with the increasingly firm conditions causing problems for the majority of the field. In the end, it was 30-year-old Argentinian Emiliano Grillo who came home in front following a playoff with Adam Schenk – although he very nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Conditions were more conducive to posting a low score on the opening two days, and it was Englishman Harry Hall who flew out of the traps with a blistering 62 – a score which was three shots better than anyone else managed all week. Following up with a 66, the PGA Tour rookie still held the lead at halfway, but had been joined by Schenk headed into the final round. Grillo sat four shots back following rounds of 65, 67, and 72.
Swapping pars and bogeys over the first four holes, Grillo then began to eat into the deficit with back-to-back birdies at 6 and 7 and, with Hall and Schenk struggling to get much going, claimed the outright lead when picking up a shot at 12. Following another birdie at 16, Grillo was two clear at the 18th, needing only to avoid disaster to surely claim the title.
Unfortunately, disaster struck. Firing his tee shot violently to the right, Grillo’s ball ended up in a viaduct and floated serenely almost all the way back to the tee. A double bogey followed, bringing Grillo back to Schenk and Hall on eight under. Schenk then had a 15ft putt to win it, going close but ultimately settling for a playoff, whilst Hall finally came unstuck when sending his first shot at 18 into the pond.
Having swapped pars on the opening playoff hole, Grillo’s luck changed at the par 3 16th - his tee shot catching the lip of the greenside bunker, bouncing kindly and coming to rest within four feet. Schenk’s response sailed over the green, and whilst he put the pressure on with an excellent chip to withing a few feet, Grillo made no mistake to seal the deal.
This as a second PGA Tour success for Grillo, but the first since winning the 2015 Fortinet Championship. He picked up $1.566m in prize money for his week's work and moved up to 17th in the FedEx Cup Standings. Scottie Scheffler – aided by an ace at the par 3 8th – joined Hall in a tie for third.
2022: Sam Burns
There can be fewer more daunting challenges in golf then trying to chase down the world number one on the final day of a big tournament. That was the test facing Sam Burns on Sunday at the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge as he set about trying to catch Scottie Scheffler who had the small matter of a seven-shot head start.
If anybody was going to achieve what looked an impossible task it was going to be Burns. He arrived at Colonial full of confidence having already earned two PGA Tour win this season and although he admitted afterwards to having doubts, he played one of the rounds of his life to get into a playoff. Burns did need a bit of help from Scheffler though. The Masters champion gave two shots back to the field while Burns fired in a superb 65 to set up another trip down the 18th hole for the pair.
This time there was no help from Scheffler, it was all about the brilliance of Burns. His approach shot to the 18th green finished just on the fringe and, confident in his putting, Burns proceeded to hole out from 38 feet for victory. While that putt started a mad scramble for Scheffler to make his sister-in-law's wedding, it sparked celebrations for Burns who rose to a career high world ranking of ninth and he certainly looks capable of going higher.
2021: Jason Kokrak
The return of fans to golf tournaments in the weeks before the 2021 Charles Schwab Challenge was a real boost to the PGA Tour. It has not been without its challenges though as players have a different kind of pressure to contend with as they try to win. Jason Kokrak certainly felt that pressure on the weekend of the Charles Schwab Challenge. He was left in no doubt that the crowd wanted his playing partner Jordan Spieth to win but he coped with that impressively to become the third two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season. That has seen the Canada-born man move to a career best 22nd in the official world rankings, fine going for a 36 year old.
Kokrak was expecting a fierce battle with Spieth when they teed off four and five shots ahead of the field respectively on Sunday. However, the battle in the early holes was all between Kokrak’s ears as he made a number of mistakes to open the door for the rest of the field. Fortunately for him, Spieth was faltering just as badly so by the time Kokrak turned his round around he was in the driving seat for what turned out to be a two shot lead.
For Spieth, this was another disappointing performance when holding the 54 hole lead. He showed no real sign of making a game of it even with Kokrak repeatedly making mistakes to keep things interesting. While Kokrak would have preferred more serene progress on Sunday, he quickly put that to one side to enjoy a win that boosted his hopes of making his Ryder Cup debut.
2020: Daniel Berger
The 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge was arguably the most eagerly anticipated renewal in the tournament’s history. A considerably stronger field than usual turned up to Colonial Country Club to welcome back the PGA Tour after the enforced three-month pause in golf. Finishing ahead of so many world-class players made the win all the sweeter for Daniel Berger.
The win came as no great surprise to Berger or indeed anybody who had played golf with him during the shutdown. Away from the cameras, the pressure and the hullabaloo of the PGA Tour, Berger was playing some excellent golf in practice. Moreover, this was his third PGA Tour win and all three of them came in the same week in June in 2016, 2017 and then here in 2020.
As happy as everybody involved with the tour was with the way the tournament went, it was a real shame there were no fans to witness a tremendous final round in which six players were in the mix even in the latter stages. Ultimately, it was Berger and Collin Morikawa who made it through to a playoff with the former getting the job done after the latter missed a three-foot putt on the second extra hole.
2019: Kevin Na
Kevin Na doesn’t find it easy to contend at every golf course the PGA Tour visits over the course of a season. Colonial Country Club is one course that allows Na to score well when playing to his strengths as he showed in 2018 when closing his week out with a round of 61 on Sunday. Na’s 62 on the Friday of the 2019 edition, which was changed to be called the Charles Schwab Challenge for the first time, was the lowest round of the week and helped him to win the tournament by four strokes.
Na’s route to victory was based around a sensible, well-executed game plan from tee to green and consistently reliable putting. It was a different story for runner up Tony Finau who did most of his best work off the tee, utilising his incredible power and skill with his driver. It was the difference between in terms of strokes gained approaching the green which ultimately saw the tournament swing in Na’s direction.
After winning his third PGA Tour title, Na talked about the visualisation he did before teeing off on Sunday. “On the first tee, I saw that wall, looked at the names, right below Justin Rose and in my head, I engraved my name on it.” That helped to get his mentality right, his ball-striking and putting took care of the rest.
2018: Justin Rose
The drama began very early in 2018 at Colonial. Grocerie chain Dean & DeLuca caused a stir when suddenly pulling out of their deal as title sponsors of the tournament forcing a panicked scramble which was eventually solved when four local companies stepped into the breach. They were rewarded with a stellar field and, in Justin Rose, a very worthy winner.
Rose famously fell just short of winning a green jacket in the Masters and although the plaid jacket awarded to the winner of the Fort Worth Invitational (the tournament’s name for the year) doesn’t make up for that loss, Rose was very keen to ensure he did not have to rely on a playoff. He did exactly that with a final round of 64 which, added to his other three rounds, meant he ended the week with a stroke average of 65.
Rose needed that strong finish as Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo kept reminding him that they were ready to pounce should he offer them any opportunity. That those three were able to contend whilst gaining strokes on the field with different parts of their game (Rose with his approach play, Koepka off the tee, Grillo on the greens) goes to show what a well-balanced track Colonial is and why it produces such quality tournaments year after year.
2017: Kevin Kisner
Kevin Kisner is a huge fan of Colonial Country Club, so much so that it is one of the first weeks of the year he highlights in his calendar when the new schedule is out. His love for the course and for competing in Fort Worth is such that he didn’t even mind the local fans were cheering on fellow Texan as Kisner and Spieth did battle for the title in the 2017 Dean & DeLuca Invitational.
Heading into the tournament, Kisner had had more than his fair share of near misses on the PGA Tour. He had a host of second-place finishes on either side of his maiden win at the RSM Classic and said after he held off Spieth that he was able to use the chatter about his supposed inability to win as fuel for the fire. He certainly made those critics eat their words at Colonial by coming up trumps right at the death with a seriously impressive scrambling par on the 72nd hole to win by one stroke.
For Spieth was the nearly man of the week. His prediction before Sunday that -10 would be enough to win the tournament was correct. Unfortunately, he was unable to get there himself, having missed a birdie putt on the 17th. Spieth’s disappointment was tempered by the belief that many more wins were to come his way in the future. Kisner’s win strengthened that belief in his own game too.