The Five: Things that caught the eye at the Charles Schwab Challenge
9 Min Read
Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic
It’s an exciting time on the PGA TOUR with majors coming and going and historic venues in between. After a rousing weekend at Oak Hill, players are headed down to the Charles Schwab Challenge at tradition-steeped Colonial Country Club, where the legacy of Ben Hogan shines.
That makes it an eventful and entertaining edition of The Five – reflecting on the week that was at the PGA Championship and looking forward to what’s to come this week. Here are five things that caught my eye, whether it’s interesting storylines that have emerged, thoughtful musings, or a call for Michael Block to run for president. Let’s get started.
Could Scheffler push past Rahm?
Here’s the PGA TOUR this season in one sentence:
There’s Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm … and then there’s everyone else.
The two have traded places atop the world ranking, racked up copious FedExCup points and dominated in the season’s Designated events. They are unquestionably playing the best golf of anyone on the PGA TOUR, but what is the gap between them?
Scheffler moved past Rahm once again as the No. 1 player in the world after his T2 finish at the PGA Championship. Meanwhile, Rahm still holds a significant edge in FedExCup points. Let’s compare their accomplishments this season side-by-side.
|Scottie Scheffler||Jon Rahm|
|Weeks spent as World No. 1||6||9|
|FedExCup rank||2nd (2,277)||1st (2,992)|
|Wins||2 (WM Phoenix Open, THE PLAYERS Championship)||4 (Sentry Tournament of Champions, The American Express, The Genesis Invitational, the Masters)|
|Missed cuts||0||0 (one withdrawal)|
|Strokes Gained: Total||1st (2.490)||2nd (2.422)|
|Scoring average||2nd (68.84)||1st (68.69)|
|Official money||$14.4 million||$14.5 million|
It’s startling how similar their seasons have been. They have made nearly the same amount of money, their Strokes Gained: Total and scoring averages are barely distinguishable, and neither has spent an overwhelming amount of time as the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Whom you prefer depends on what’s important to you: wins or consistency?
Scheffler hasn’t finished outside the top 14 of a tournament since October, while Rahm has had a few off weeks, most recently at last week’s PGA Championship (T50). But Rahm has won more, including his second major championship at the Masters, where the coveted green jacket was draped over his shoulders by none other than Scheffler, who is still searching for major No. 2.
How to hit chip shots like Scottie Scheffler
With the substantial lead Rahm still holds in the FedExCup race and his decided advantage in wins, it’s hard to argue against him, but if Scheffler can pick up another win this week at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the conversation gets much more interesting. Rahm’s lead in the FedExCup would narrow substantially, Scheffler would pass Rahm as the top money-earner on TOUR this season and solidify his position as world No. 1.
Rahm would still have the edge in wins, but only narrowly. With a little over two months until the end of the regular season, the Player of the Year race is going to heat up – and right now only two players are fighting for it. A win for Scheffler would add to the intrigue.
‘Week of Block’ boggles the mind
PGA professional Michael Block, who suddenly has more than 200,000 Instagram followers, went straight from Oak Hill to Dallas after getting an 11th-hour sponsor exemption into the Charles Schwab Challenge. They’ll be plenty of heart-warming stories written about Block. We’ve already published several of them. That’s not what we’re doing here.
Instead, we are ranking the craziest storylines and plot developments from “The Week of Block.”
Players comment on Michael Block's success at PGA Championship
8. Casually dropping his close friendship with Albert Pujols
As Block explained in his press conference at Colonial, he was introduced to future baseball Hall of Famer Pujols by Nick Punto, a former Major League infielder, during an outing at Dove Canyon. Block and Pujols played together, Block shot 64, and Pujols asked him to play again the next day. They quickly became friends from there. Block revealed that he plans to attend Pujols’ wedding this winter, “which will be a lot of fun, to say the least,” he said.
7. Playing with Rory McIlroy in the final round of a major
It would be hard to name three more famous golfers than McIlroy at the start of the week; almost no one outside his fellow PGA teaching professionals knew Block. But there they were, thrown together for the final round at Oak Hill, one guy, Block, a little wide-eyed just to be there, and the other, McIlroy, a four-time major champion searching for his first since 2013. Hard to get better than that (though it did, we’ll get to that later). Block even got a louder ovation on the first tee than McIlroy, just a little glimpse into how captivating his story was at Oak Hill.
6. His kid’s 197 ball speed
Soon enough there may be another Block golfer to talk about, Michael’s 18-year-old son, Dylan. Dylan made it through U.S. Open Local Qualifying with his father and the pair will play in Final Qualifying together on June 5. Dylan intends to turn pro after he graduates, and given his numbers, he might not be too far away from playing high-level golf.
In an Instagram post from Michael Block, Dylan is seen touching 197 mph ball speed. For reference, only Kyle Westmoreland clocked a faster speed this season (198.33). Cameron Champ leads the TOUR with an average ball speed of 190.24.
5. Wearing black pants during a Charles Schwab practice round
Chalk this one up to inexperience. Block arrived at Colonial on Tuesday wearing black pants for his practice round with Beau Hossler and Peter Malnati. Safe to say that wasn’t a great decision.
“Horrible choice,” Block said. “I don't have any shorts with me at all. So I'm going to try to get some shorts here this afternoon at least when I'm out here practicing tomorrow.”
Expect him to be wearing some lighter colors to cope with the Texas heat.
4. His up-and-down on 18 at Oak Hill
Jim Nantz called it an all-time up-and-down, and while it can’t crack the top-three in The Week of Block, it was big. Needing to par the last hole to secure a top-15 finish and a spot in next year’s PGA, Block perfectly pitched his third shot from 30 yards left of the green, landing the ball in the fringe to kill the speed. His ball stopped 7 feet short, and he drained the putt, his ball peering over the edge for a microsecond before falling. Block hunched over in disbelief.
3. His 50K 7-iron
For history or $50,000? That’s the question Block must answer about his 7-iron, the club he used to dunk the hole-in-one on the 15th hole of the final round of the PGA. He’s had offers from interested buyers rolling in to purchase the well-worn 2014 TaylorMade iron. The PGA of America also would love to persevere it for history. No decision has been made.
“It's up in the air,” Block said. “For right now it just needs to hit shots in there close for me, and I'll go from there.”
What’s in the bag with PGA Professional Michael Block
2. Michael Jordan’s text
There’s plenty on Block’s agenda this week. One item: parse through the 3,600 texts he’s received. One he’s already found: a text from Michael Jordan.
“It was something in the way that what he saw is why he loves the game of golf so much,” Block said, describing the text. And what was the response?
“I told him that I just want to be in one of his 36-hole games,” Block said.
1. The hole in one
Not much more needed here than the video. In a week full of Block histrionics, this moment topped them all.
The only question now is how can it be topped?
Michael Block for president? I would buy a t-shirt.
The Open Championship qualification
Looking for another storyline to follow this week at the Charles Schwab Challenge? The top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week will be exempt into the Open Championship.
Several notable names still have work to do to qualify. According to Nosferatu, which tracks the OWGR, here is the minimum finish each player will need this week to crack the top 50.
|Current OWGR position||Player||Minimum finish required for exemption|
|No. 51||Rickie Fowler||Solo 29th|
|No. 65||Kevin Kisner||Two-way tie for 3rd|
|No. 66||Nick Taylor||Solo 3rd|
|No. 70||Hayden Buckley||Two-way tie for 2nd|
|No. 72||Brendan Todd||Two-way tie for 2nd|
|No. 73||Andrew Putnam||Solo 2nd|
|No. 75||Justin Suh||Solo 2nd|
|No. 76||J.J. Spaun||Solo 2nd|
|No. 80||Emiliano Grillo||Solo 2nd|
|No. 86||Thomas Detry||Win|
Several players just outside the top 50 are not playing this week, including Keith Mitchell, Aaron Wise, Adam Svensson, Taylor Montgomery and Mackenzie Hughes.
They will not qualify through world ranking but have several other ways to do so before the final major championship of the year in July. The Memorial Tournament presented by Workday and the Genesis Scottish Open are Open Qualifying Series events. The top three finishers not otherwise exempt from those fields will receive exemptions to the Open Championship.
The Travelers Championship also marks an important cut-off for qualification. The first five PGA TOUR members and any PGA TOUR members tying for 5th place, not otherwise exempt, in the top 20 of the FedExCup after the event will qualify. This week provides the most direct path, though. Will anyone take advantage?
We saw a new Viktor Hovland
The Hovland we saw Sunday at Oak Hill was a different animal.
Heralded as one of the next great young golfers when he joined the TOUR in 2020, Hovland had shown steady growth with wins in every season but had yet to put it all together in a major. That began to turn at the 2022 Open Championship when he played in the final group with McIlroy on Sunday and finished T4. It continued at the Masters last month, as Hovland finished T7.
The only thing he lacked in both cases was a good final round.
Viktor Hovland | Swing Theory | Driver, iron, wedge
At St. Andrews last July, Hovland started Sunday tied for the lead but was the only golfer in the top 10 who finished with an over-par final round (74). He finished six back.
It happened again at the Masters, where Hovland entered the final round alone in third place but stumbled to another 74. He was one of just two players in the top 10 who shot over par for the round. As he had at St. Andrews, he’d played his way out of it by the back nine.
That certainly wasn’t the case at the PGA. He birdied the fourth and fifth holes and answered with two more on 13 and 14 when it looked like Brooks Koepka was going to run away with it. That he made a double-bogey on 16 to sink his chances doesn’t inhibit what was clear: Hovland is ready to win a major championship. He knows it, too.
“If I just keep taking care of my business,” he said, “and just keep working on what I've been doing, I think we're going to get one of these soon.”
No argument here.
The wedge issue at Colonial
Want a preview of who will play well at Colonial? Look at the best wedge players. Both in approach shots and around the greens, the golfers who best control their distance, spin and trajectory with wedges are going to have an advantage.
Last season at Colonial, only 73% of greens were hit from inside 125 yards, making them the second-toughest greens to hit on the TOUR schedule. The average proximity to the hole from inside 100 yards was 33’4”, the third-longest of any course last season.
All-time shots from Charles Schwab Challenge
Precise wedge play will come in handy this week.
Here are the best in the field between 50-125 yards measured by average proximity to the hole.
1. Luke Donald – 14’8”
2. Tom Hoge – 15’2”
3. Billy Horschel – 15’7”
4. Russell Knox – 15’10”
5. Scottie Scheffler – 16’0”
6. Si Wood Kim – 16’1”
7. Zach Johnson – 16’2”
8. David Lipsky – 16’4”
9. Paul Haley II – 16’5”
10. Kurt Kitayama – 16’7”