Wednesday, March 22, 2023

2022 Charles Schwab Challenge leaderboard: Scheffler well-positioned for fifth win of season after Round 2

Remember when Scottie Scheffler missed the cut at the PGA Championship? That already feels like ages ago, as Scheffler was back to his normal self on Friday. The world No. 1 finds himself in a three-way tie for the lead after signing for yet another bogey-free round at the halfway point in the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge. Carding nine birdies against zero bogeys at Colonial this week, the four-time winner this season looks determined to add a fifth victory to what has been an impressive stretch.

“I love that stat [zero bogeys],” said Scheffler. “It’s a lot of fun. Today, I kept the stress off myself for the most part. My lag putting was really good, and really the only long par putt I made was on No. 7, and outside of that, I really didn’t put much stress on myself, which is good. Having a day where I can take the stress off, especially when the conditions are going to be so hard the next two days is important.”

Saturdays have often propelled Scheffler to victory this season, with come-from-behind efforts at the WM Phoenix Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. While he did hold a record-setting lead at the 2022 Masters, it will nonetheless be interesting to see how the Texan performs amongst a tight leaderboard.

The leaders

T1. Scottie Scheffler, Beau Hossler and Scott Stallings (-9): We could go on and on about the world No. 1, but after the traffic jam that was Round 1, it is nice to see a little bit of separation on the leaderboard and shine some light on one of Scheffler’s co-leaders.

Hossler finished in a flurry to catch Stallings in the early wave, but regardless of what happens in the second half of this tournament, Stallings will be going home a happy camper. The 37-year-old successfully made it through sectional qualifying on Monday and is set for his first U.S. Open appearance since 2018 in a few weeks at The Country Club.

“That was a huge goal,” said Stallings. “Probably the biggest goal I had of the year is to play the Open up there, probably the only time in my career I’ll have an opportunity to play a major championship in New England where at least half my family lives, my sister lives just down the road. I was born about 45 minutes from there.”

Other contenders

4.  Patrick Reed (-8)

T5. Pat Perez and Chris Kirk (-7)

T7. Viktor Hovland, Davis Riley and two others (-6)

This is a phenomenal leaderboard, which could give way to this tournament going in a number of directions. First-time winners, veterans breaking through or the game’s elites reclaiming their spots among the world’s best are all on the table. Reed and Hovland are the obvious headliners, but seeing Simpson at 5 under and playing well is always encouraging.

Nearly a decade removed from his U.S. Open victory, the 36-year-old finally looks to be 100% after battling neck and shoulder injuries over the last year. He has played sparingly in 2022, but did card the round of the day in Round 3 of the PGA Championship with an impressive 5-under 65 before finishing tied for 20th. 

Spieth’s putter finally shows signs of life

There was not a breath of wind humming around Colonial Friday morning, and Jordan Spieth took full advantage. Signing for a bogey-free 4-under 66, the Texan’s second round was not as volatile as his first and even more effective. The reason being: his putter. 

Speith gained nearly three strokes with the flat stick in hand, a welcomed sight for someone who has struggled mightily this season on the greens. The 28-year-old now sits at 5 under after two days of play and enters the weekend only four strokes behind the leaders. If the putter continues to be an ally, Spieth should have a realistic opportunity to add another Charles Schwab Challenge trophy to his mantle. 

“I just tried to believe that the putts would go in,” said Spieth. “I caught kind of the left side of the hole on the first … and all of a sudden, now I go to the 12th hole and it’s like, wow, the ball doesn’t have to go in the middle; it can go in on the edges. Just putted beautifully today.”

Thomas and Zalatoris sent packing early

The two faced off in a playoff last week at the 2022 PGA Championship and made short trips to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but Justin Thomas and Will Zalatoris will not be around for the weekend at Colonial, as they each carded a two-round total of 3-over 143.

Thomas’ iron play was never able to catch up to its historical baseline, as he put together a bottom-five career approach performance on Thursday. Zalatoris was in a similar boat, and combined with his putter returning to earth after a fantastic week at Southern Hills, neither were able to get anything going. 

This doesn’t come as a total surprise, but it does mark the end of the longest made cut streak on the PGA Tour. Thomas had connected on 21 straight with his last missed cut coming just over a year ago at the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

Updated odds and picks

Here’s a look at the new odds after 36 holes, via Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Scottie Scheffler: 7/4
  • Patrick Reed: 8-1
  • Viktor Hovland: 10-1
  • Beau Hossler: 10-1
  • Scott Stallings: 10-1
  • Jordan Spieth: 12-1
  • Chris Kirk: 12-1
  • Harold Varner III: 20-1
  • Davis Riley: 20-1
  • Webb Simpson: 25-1
  • Pat Perez: 28-1

It is hard to pick anyone not named Scottie Scheffler at the moment, but if a selection is needed, it is nowhere near the top of the odds board. The juice is simply not worth the squeeze. Instead, a player such as Mito Pereira at 60-1 draws some interest. His meltdown at Southern Hills is still fresh in his memory, but that hasn’t stopped the Chilean from contending once again. At 4 under, he is only five strokes off the lead and has yet to find his touch on the greens. If he can putt like he did at certain points during the PGA Championship, Pereira has a great opportunity to bounce back in a big way.

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