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No-one was in any doubt at the start of 2022 that Scottie Scheffler was a very fine golfer.
He'd proved as much in Major Championships, World Golf Championships, in landing the 2020 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year title and starring for Team USA in the 2021 Ryder Cup. But he hadn't won at the top level. How that has changed in the first six months of the year. He heads into the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club two shots clear of the field on 11-under 199 and should he convert the win he will join the sport's elite. For a man settled in Texas to lift a trophy so associated with Ben Hogan is one thing, but there is more. Much more.
He's seeking to become just the third player in history to record his first five wins in the same season (after Bobby Locke and Joe Kirkwood) and he would also become just the fourth player to win five times before the beginning of June (Arnold Palmer did it twice, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson emulated him).
It would also be a fifth win in just 10 starts. Some transformation from the New Year pen picture of a serial non-winner. That said, there is threat to his triumph on Sunday. The wind blew on Saturday and caused difficulties - he can expect more of the same in the final round, with gusts of up to 28mph forecast.
He'll be chased by Brendon Todd and Scott Stallings, currently tied second on 9-under 201, with Harold Varner III alone in fourth on 8-under. John Huh, Cam Davis, Patrick Reed and Chris Kirk share fifth on 7-under.
Pace-setters have a good recent record in this event with 18 of the last 20 winners having been tied fourth or better heading into the final round and all 20 were within three blows of the lead at that stage. The two exceptions on the leaderboard? Adam Scott in 2013 was T11th but only two shots in arrears and Daniel Berger in 2020 was tied seventh and also two back. That suggests that the field is narrowed to four.
The "Horrible Horseshoe" is a beast 😬
Toughest stretch of holes 3-5 on TOUR since 2003. pic.twitter.com/6mNgKlfjNO
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 29, 2022
The last five winners ranks top three on the par-4s, top four for Greens in Regulation and top seven for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. As it stands the current top four are all on track on the par-4s. In GIR Todd (37th) and Varner III (29th) are struggling, Todd is also off the pace for SG T2G (18th). The stats love Scheffler (he ranks first for all three) and make Stallings the main threat (he's fourth, fourth and seventh).
Scottie Scheffler - leading on 11-under (66-65-68)
Scheffler is 1-for-4 at converting a 54 hole lead and 1-for-2 when it is a solo advantage. This is just his third start in the tournament and he's only played the final round once before, carding a 73 in 2020. He's wary of the wind and the layout. "You're just trying to hit good shots and you can't do anything about the gusts," he said. "You've just got to be committed to what you're doing. Hopefully, if I hit enough good shots, I'll be able to get a few good breaks and some bad ones, as well, and just kind of ride things out. "And this is a golf course you have to be pretty careful around. It's very challenging. When you get things going in the right direction, you can really score, but the same goes when things go in the wrong direction."
That's one way to take the lead 👀
Scottie Scheffler chips in to move to -10. pic.twitter.com/Lra8GwZdRR
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 28, 2022
Brendon Todd - tied second on 9-under (68-68-65)
Todd leapt into the final group with a Saturday 65 and he is 1-for-4 at turning second after 54 holes into victory, winning the last time it happened at the 2019 Bermuda Championship. It's his seventh Colonial start and he's looking for a third top 10. He averages 69.66 in round four. He's looking to spin off good memories and windy vibes. "When I won the Byron Nelson in 2014 it was hot and firm and windy, that seems to be my favourite conditions," he said. "Hopefully we get more of it tomorrow. "I generally feel like a little bit of wind helps me shape shots into the greens and not put pressure on myself to feel like I have to birdie every hole. "It just seems like when we get calm conditions out here, guys go crazy. But it's almost the opposite for me. A little bit of wind allows me to use the wind to shape shots into the pins and stay patient. That's the key."
Scott Stallings - tied second on 9-under (67-64-70)
This is a 10th start at Colonial for Stallings and he's on track for just a second top 60 finish, to sit alongside his fourth in 2013. He's played three previous Sundays and averages 70.00. He is 1-for-2 at turning second after three rounds into victory (he won the Greenbrier Classic in 2011 with a final round 69). He said: "I knew I was playing well. I knew I was doing a lot of good things and just got to keep reminding myself of that."
Harold Varner III - fourth on 8-under (66-68-68)
In terms of Colonial record Varner has good and bad. He's yet to land a top 15 but he was the halfway leader in 2020 and did thrash middle rounds of 64-67 last year. But his two Sunday laps have both needed 72 blows. His plan in the final round? "Just looking forward to the challenge," he said. "Adversity is going to hit and you're going to have to respond." And what did he learn when he won the Saudi International earlier this year? "That crazy s**t can happen. Man, you're never out of it. Just believe that anything can go in from anywhere."
The article Charles Schwab Challenge: Scottie Scheffler takes a two-shot lead into the final round at Colonial appeared first on Planetsport.com.