Charles Schwab Challenge: Five key angles at Colonial Country Club and the players they favour

Justin Thomas is seeking back-to-back victories and Jordan Spieth is looking to bounce back to form in Texas.

With a history not only stretching back to 1946, but also forever linked with the great Ben Hogan, the annual visit to the tree-lined fairways of the Colonial Country Club in Forth Worth is always a popular one.

The track is affectionately referred to as 'Hogan's Alley', in memory of his five wins, and he is far from the only great to have enjoyed a triumphant week there.

Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Bill Casper, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Lanny Wadkins, Corey Pavin, Phil Mickelson, Nick Price, Sergio Garcia, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth have all lifted the trophy.

It's an intriguing test, one that can trip up the big-hitters and one that is sometimes vulnerable to low scoring - seven players have posted laps of 9-under-par 61.

Let's take a closer look at five players who can thrive this week.

The Alley Cat

You think maybe Jordan Spieth likes Colonial?! His record at the track is so good it's hard to know where to start.

Finishing position? He's visited nine times, never missed a cut, never been close to doing so, has landed eight top 15 finishes, with three seconds and a win in 2016.

Getting into contention? He not only has that win and three top two finishes, he's also been second after 54 holes twice (finishing top 10) and got off to swift starts in two other appearances.

Scoring? He averages 67.74 per round (against a par of 70) and 66.11 in the first round. He's 28-for-36 at going sub-70.

Putting? He has an average Strokes Gained number of 7.732 for Putting in the last three years and he has been top three for Putts per Round in five of the last six years.

Did he suffer from fatigue and also high expectations last week when flat at the PGA Championship? Before then he won The Heritage and was second in the AT&T Byron Nelson.

He may also be motivated by the success of his close friend Justin Thomas at Southern Hills.

The Maxwell Factor

Last week's PGA Championship was played at Southern Hills CC, designed by Perry Maxwell who was also responsible for Colonial.

There are difference between the two layouts, but also similarities: tree-lined fairways, small greens, a demand on the long game, a par of 70, bent grass greens, Bermuda elsewhere.

If that works as an angle it favours last week's winner Thomas, except you might wonder if he'll suffer from a hangover.

Chris Kirk was fifth last week and is a past winner at Colonial.

Tommy Fleetwood is a Colonial rookie this week but shared fifth with Kirk.

The fast starter

In truth, it's a little demeaning to paint Kevin Na as a pace-setter because in 14 appearances at the course he boasts eight top 25 finishes including tied fourth in 2018 and victory in 2019.

But it is also true that he doesn't climb from the blocks when the gun goes, but instead explodes from them.

As Linford Christie memorably learned: Don't wait for G of the bang, explode with B of the bang.

A Thursday 65 on Na's debut in 2005 earned him a share of fourth and was a hint that there was more to come.

A 63 in 2006 gave him a tie of the first round lead, a 64 in 2015 repeated that effort, and his 62 in 2018 left him one clear of the field on Thursday evening.

But his ability to go low around this design has been rubber-stamped at other times during the tournament. In all, he has 14 scores of 66 or better.

The neat fit

Who do the stats like?

The last five winners at the course ranked top eight for Strokes Gained Approach, the last seven winners ranked top seven for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, and four of the last six winners ranked top four for Greens in Regulation.

Will Zalatoris ranks top five for all three categories on the PGA Tour this season.

The big question is how he responds to a second playoff defeat of the season last week - and one which cost him a Major too.

Local knowledge

For 45-year-old Ryan Palmer this week feels kind of familiar. Why so? Well, he's a member at the club and lives around the corner.

He'll be making his 19th appearance in the tournament this week and, in truth, a total of four top 10s is probably a little lower than he might expect given his advantages, but there is better news: all four have come in the last ten

years (and on another occasion he was T14th).

The Texas man has made the weekend in each of his last six starts on home state soil and he was the 36 hole leader in the two most recent efforts, in April's Texas Open (he finished T48th) and the AT&T Byron Nelson two weeks ago (fifth).

READ MORE: US PGA Championship: The key stats that tell the story of Southern Hills

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