Charles Schwab Challenge First Round Leader Picks, Bets & More (2024)

It’s going to be difficult to top what we saw last week. The unthinkable happened, sending the golf world into complete shock, then joy, as the outcome was overwhelmingly positive. Xander Schauffele finally got his win, and it felt like the entire golf community had a collective exhale. There was not the same reaction by any means to seeing Scottie Scheffler return to the course from jail following his arrest, which looks to be in the clear. On to Colonial for some Charles Schwab first-round leader bets!

The Charles Schwab Challenge is one that tests the level of patience and accuracy like few courses. Forget gaining strokes off the tee or gaining any advantage on either of the par 5’s. This is a short-hitter course that demands both touch and creativity from tee shot to putt. Most notable will be shorter irons setting up on the bentgrass. It’s a fun tournament despite an obvious hangover from last week’s scintillating finish at the PGA Championship.

The good news for us is there is certainly a proven strategy to approach picking outright winners at Colonial in Texas. There are a few constants no matter the field, some that even appeal to any local golfers playing this week. We are still out to fade Scheffler; he’s going to carry heavy chalk for some time, but that opens up more action in the mid-range. That’s where we home in for our Charles Schwab Challenge first-round leader.

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Keep it simple. Ball placement off the tee, pinpoint accuracy from 200 or less yards, make a putt. We stay away from the bomber-only mentality and focus on some shot shapers.

Charles Schwab Challenge First Round Leader Picks

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The Keys To The Kingdom

This is not Valhalla. Colonial is a shorter course that only boasts two par 5’s. One is incredibly short, the other unforgivingly long. As much as there’s a scoring chance on one, there’s an equal chance to give one back on the other. We see par 4’s no longer than 450 yards riddled all over this course. In fact, the field will have to navigate half of the holes in that range, pushing an even greater importance on the shorter approach shots. The goal here is to set up a second shot off the tee, not simply blast down the middle of the fairway. Even “good” drives on most courses can be diminished by the overwhelming tree lines, causing issues with second shots.

It’s one of the few spots on tour where we throw out overall distance and place an incredible amount of focus on accuracy. Course history should also play well here. It stands to reason that a course not in the traditional line of what we see produces consistent play from those who fit. Don’t ignore the fact that other courses similar to Colonial (although not a ton) produce a similar group of names atop the leaderboard. Certain guys on tour thrive in these circumstances, including a few you may have forgotten still play!

Charles Schwab Challenge First-Round Leader Picks

Charles Schwab Challenge First Round Leader Picks: Sepp Straka (+5000 at BetMGM)

This isn’t the first time Straka made the column, but he certainly warrants it here at Colonial. A sharpshooter at his best, Straka pops in a lot of categories that fit this course, including his ability to navigate shots off the tee and score on shorter par 4’s. It’s a vastly underrated skill that should make life incredibly easier for anyone who can position their drives, sacrificing distance or even “better” placement on the fairway. It might simply be better to inch closer to the first cut while remaining on the short grass than being dead center middle fairway.

We like Straka to jump out on this field — already down Viktor Hovland — that’s not going to create any issues up top. Scheffler is going to be there, we know that, but we’ve seen plenty of different first-round leaders in tournaments he has won. The better angle for us is Straka combining his putting with an insanely accurate short-iron game — netting strokes from less than 200 yards. This is a patient course that builds to success, one that doesn’t require anyone to blindly punish the ball from tee to green. Straka is the tactician we target despite a brutal outing last time out.

Focus instead on areas that make a better comparison to this week. Straka finished fifth at Harbour Town, another course stressing the importance of accuracy with shorter irons. He tied for eighth at the Wells Fargo, where he gained an impressive 1.5 strokes on approach shots and truly everywhere outside of around the green. He was able to overcome a bad day scrambling to control the course and still score. Let’s grab this 50-1 play now.


Charles Schwab Challenge First Round Leader Picks: Austin Eckroat (+6600 at BetRivers)

If you are on the OddsShopper Discord, then you’re already familiar with our nickname for Eckroat. We’ve cashed plenty of tickets this year, including another profit boost over the weekend. “EckGOAT,” as he’s kindly referred to in the Discord, is our target this week at Colonial. Nothing changes here; it’s all about the approach. He’s going to face the same course as Straka and everyone else, so it’s another chance for Eckroat to sharpen those shorter irons and create solid scoring chances.

He’s already won on tour this year, but look to last year’s finish in his rookie season. A 16th at Colonial should prove once again to help this elite-level ball striker who can rely on shorter accuracy. Amazingly, Eckroat finished 17th at the RBC despite losing — barely — strokes on approach shots. He’s been able to balance the right type of distance on shorter courses, which helps this week at the Charles Schwab. A confident putter, he gained over 1.5 strokes on the green last week. Eckroat can handle shot shaping, shorter approach shots and the bentgrass. We love him to compete through the weekend, starting with a first-round leader on Thursday.

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