Jordan Spieth’s Colonial power unfaltering: Final round preview of the Charles Schwab Challenge

The Texan carded a third round 66 to take a one shot lead over Jason Kokrak into the final day on 15-under 195.

It's showdown time at Colonial Country Club: heading into the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge Jordan Spieth and Jason Kokrak are all set for a Sunday duel.

They're in the Lone Star State so, in the past, they may have walked to opposite ends of a dusty street before turning on one another.

Fortunately, the scene in Forth Worth will be rather more civil: a gentle stroll to the first tee, a few pleasantries, then they'll trade blows with short-irons and putters rather than hastily un-holstered hand guns.

Spieth had gone 36 holes without a bogey prior to Saturday and he stretched that run to 40 before needing to scratch a couple of errors on his card, but the birdie count remained high as he completed a second 66 to back up his first round 63.

He leads on 15-under 195 with Kokrak one back after his own 66 followed the two 65s with which he kicked off his week.

Sergio Garcia, who shared the first round lead, might have hoped that adding scores of 69-68 would keep him in-contention.

In one sense, they have: he's alone in third, two clear of Ian Poulter and Sebastian Munoz who share fourth.

In another, he's not: he's four adrift of Kokrak and five back of Spieth as he chases a second victory at Colonial exactly 20 years after his first.

Spieth is a strong favourite, best price 4/9 with Unibet, so is there any value to be had ahead of the final round?

Let's take a closer look.

Jordan Spieth - leader on 15-under

Spieth had a lot going for him at the start of the week.

He was in great form (seven top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts, five of them top fours including victory in last month's Texas Open) and he has a brilliant record at Colonial (eight starts, never missed a cut, never looked like doing so, seven top 15 finishes, two seconds and a win in 2016).

Of course, plenty of golfers rock up to an event holding the holy grail of course and current form only to be toppled by high expectations.

It's therefore to Spieth's credit that he's grasped the opportunity in round one and hasn't let go of it since.

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He leads the field for Strokes Gained Putting for the third Colonial visit in a row. The difference between top 10 finishes in 2019 and 2020, and the possibility of victory this year? Far superior long game numbers. He ranked outside the top 60 for Approach and beyond the top 40 for Tee to Green in the last two years - he's 10th and fourth in those categories so far this week.

A win this week would push him to the top of the FedExCup rankings and he'd supplant the great Ben Hogan as the youngest two-time winner at Colonial.

He's 8-for-12 at converting solo 54-hole leads (11-for-20 if you include shares of the lead) and the only time he had a third round lead in this event, in 2016, he turned a one shot advantage into a three shot triumph.

"I can control my own destiny and that's obviously what you want," he said.

It all sound so perfect - what can possibly stop him?

One memory he might prefer not to have is of poor Sunday efforts in his last two Colonial visits.

In his first six appearances there he always went sub-70 in the final lap, but in the last two years he headed into Sunday lying second and carded 72 and 71 to finish tied eighth and T10th.

His long game failed him then, but that's been much healthier this week.

Best price 4/9 with Unibet.

Jason Kokrak - second on 14-under

Kokrak's Colonial record pales in comparison with Spieth's but it is far from bad and, in fact, he signalled he could launch a genuine tilt for the title last year.

He finished T18th on debut in 2013 and, although he didn't add another top 20 in his next four visits, he closed 65-64 at the weekend last June to grab a share of third.

He's maintained that momentum this week and the secret appears to be that he's sussed the tee-to-green challenge because, whereas he had poor Strokes Gained figures in his long game in the past, this year he leads the field Tee to Green (and also for Greens in Regulation).

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He hasn't missed a cut in all of 2021, but he is still seeking a first top five finish for the year. He's also chasing just a second PGA Tour victory, to add to his CJ CUP triumph last October which also came from second at the 54 hole stage (he's been in that situation four times).

Spieth is wary of his nearest challenger, saying: "He plays with a lot of confidence. I've always noticed that about him. Some guys when they get to Saturday with the lead, you see a tentativeness. He's going to be very difficult tomorrow."

Kokrak himself said: "I've got good vibes for this golf course. The putter the last two years has served me well and I seem to read these greens. All I can control is myself. I can't control what Jordan does."

He's best price 9/4 with Paddy Power.

Sergio Garcia - third on 10-under

The Spaniard is happy with the way he is playing.

He's also aware that two men have been playing even better. He's just hoping they give him a chance - and also that history repeats itself.

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"If Jason and Jordan shoot 4- or 5-under, it's going to be difficult to shoot 9- or 10-under," he said. "Obviously you can do it but it's not that easy. I'll give it my best shot. I shot 63 (to win 20 years ago) and I remember I was 6-under on the front nine so we'll see."

He's best price 22/1 with Paddy Power.

The chasers

Ian Poulter is under no illusions about the size of the task, saying: "The golf course isn't going to dry out too much so I would expect quite a few birdies from the guys in front and it's going to put me quite a few behind."

A quirk in the Englishman's favour is that Valderrama winners have a fine record at Colonial and he, too, is a winner on the tight, tree-lined course in Spain.

But, realistically, this is a three horse race.

Conclusion

The last five winners at Colonial ranked top three on the Par-4s; this week Spieth ranks first, Kokrak second, Garcia ninth.

The last four winners ranked top four for hitting the greens; this year Spieth is sixth, Kokrak first, Garcia 16th.

The last three winners ranked top three for SG Approach. This year Spieth is 10th, Kokrak second and Garcia 43rd.

The stats say it's a duel, but remember that golf is weird.

Twenty years ago Garcia was five back, thrashed a 63, and won by two. Spieth has faltered on Sunday the last two years. Kokrak is seeking just a second win.

Can the remarkable happen? Or is Sergio 20 years older and Spieth playing better than in 2019 and 2020?

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