Charles Schwab Invitational betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Paul Casey
Paul Casey

Paul Casey's adaptability can serve him well at the Charles Schwab Invitational - that's according to golf expert Ben Coley.

Recommended bets

2pts e.w. Paul Casey at 25/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Graeme McDowell at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Daniel Berger at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Danny Lee at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Kevin Streelman at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. J.T. Poston at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

A decade ago, Steve Stricker won what was the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, confining Tim Clark to second place for the second year running. It was the Colonial blueprint: quality wedge players dominant on an old-school golf course where placement of the ball is paramount.

Stricker was succeeded by Zach Johnson, who doubled up in 2012, with David Toms inbetween. You can throw a blanket over this trio, whether judging them by pure statistics or something a little more nuanced. Stricker might be a little better at putting and Zach might be a little tougher and Toms might be a little straighter, but if you were segmenting the PGA Tour by player category, they'd be in the same squad.

In subsequent years, the same methodology worked for Kevin Kisner and Chris Kirk, and to a slightly lesser extent Jordan Spieth, while Adam Scott and Boo Weekley are of course exceptional ball-strikers. This was always considered a ball-strikers' golf course made for men with loose-fitting trousers.

I think much of this remains true, despite the fact that Jon Rahm has blasted his way to a pair of top-five finishes and that Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka powered their way to first and second last year. There is always a chance someone like Rose or Rahm swans their way to the plaid jacket, but in PGA Tour terms courses like this flat, short par 70 level the playing field in more ways than one.

At the top of the market Rose is an 11/1 chance, not all that far short of the price he was for the Masters, and Rahm is a point bigger. Neither looks too short to my eye given that this is a relatively small and not particularly deep field, but I would just have to worry slightly about the transition from Bethpage to Colonial which is every bit as pronounced as New York to Fort Worth - especially as both proved disappointing.

It could allow Rahm to flex his muscles and win his first solo title since December but neither are for me with Paul Casey a much more compelling each-way play.

This classical track is perfect for Casey, who for all his might likes to club down when he can and prefers a more balanced test than that which saw Brooks Koepka hang on to beat Dustin Johnson on Sunday night.

That's why he's won twice at Copperhead, a course with similarities to this one despite being more undulating, and it also explains why he was relieved to see the back of Bethpage where he hit the ball well without reward.

Away from the Valspar, which he's won in each of the last two years, it strikes me that his most reliable source of income on the PGA Tour has been the Travelers - an event which sits one week after the US Open.

Given that we arrive on the back of a US Open-like grind, Casey's form figures of 2-5-2 from four starts in that event tell us all that we need to know about his ability to flick a switch.

In fact, the only time he has failed to crack the top 10 over at River Highlands was 2016, the year the event was moved to August, and it's a strong pointer towards his chances at Colonial.

Casey's record here shows finishes of fifth, 10th and 13th from five attempts and he sat second through 54 holes on his last visit, with a scoring average of 68.28 bettered by just six players in the field, Rose and Rahm among them.

If he can putt a little better and bring that 'glad to be here' attitude of the Travelers with him to Texas, Casey should go really well and with two wins to his name in 15 months, it's easier now to argue the case for the win part of the bet as well as the place.

Another factor in Casey's favour is his strong par-four stats, always key on a par 70. Five of the last 10 winners of this event ranked inside the top 10 come the end of that season and while Casey has a little work to do to climb so high, it remains within reach.

The likes of Aaron Baddeley, Nate Lashley, Chez Reavie and - again - Jason Kokrak all catch the eye as a result, but I'm happy to go down a little further to Kevin Streelman, currently just inside the top 50.

As ever, it's important to remember that if you rank 50th in any statistical category that puts you in the top 25 per cent of PGA Tour players, and where Streelman is concerned it's only a slow start to the year which looks set to deny him last year's figure, which was good for a share of 10th place.

More recently, he's finished sixth, sixth and 45th in his last three solo starts and while the latter effort at Quail Hollow might suggest the purple patch is over, I'm not so sure. On a long, hard golf course, Streelman hit the ball like a player at the top of his game only to rank near last in putting and not much better around the greens.

That's always the concern with a fairways-and-green merchant cut from the same cloth as many former winners here, but if Streelman can get the ball in the hole he should go really well at a course which fits better than the form figures might indicate.

Streelman does have a top-10 here, but it's his performances at River Highlands, Copperhead, Sawgrass, Harbour Town and El Camaleon which suggest he can be a serious danger at Colonial if arriving in form.

Besides, last year's effort saw him lead the field in total driving and rank third in ball-striking, so it really does just come back to that putter. Hopefully it clicks on greens which are flat and considered by most to be easy to read.

Glance through Danny Lee's profile and you'll see many of the same form ties, like second and third at El Camaleon, third at River Highlands and Deere Run, seventh at Copperhead and Sawgrass.

The New Zealander has never missed a cut in six tries at Colonial, drawing comfort not only from the course but also the fact he's long been a Texas resident, and over the last couple of years he's carded rounds of 64 and 65 to show the damage he can do.

Draw the parameters back to three years and he's been the best driver to pitch up at Colonial so with his approach play superb at Bethpage last week, where his opening 64 was every bit as good as Koepka's 63, he's another who could go seriously well here if the putts drop.

Lee is good friends with Sung Kang, who won the last event in Texas a fortnight ago, and himself was seventh when last teeing it up in the Lone Star State. Though his form has been patchy, this is an ideal opportunity to put two good weeks together and he's a solid each-way fancy.

The first name to catch my eye for this was Daniel Berger and this serious talent is worth chancing on just his second Colonial start.

It's true that the first ended in a missed cut, but Berger went on to miss five of his next seven, too, so the evidence suggests that he was at the beginning of a downturn which would last until the autumn of 2015.

His form elsewhere - two wins at Southwind, second at River Highlands and PGA National, fifth at River Highlands and Deere Run, ninth at Sawgass - is very positive, with a mid-level par 70 like Southwind appearing to suit best.

And while he's been in-and-out since returning from injury, he's made his last four cuts and started to strike the ball really well, that trademark aggressive iron play returning in time for 23rd at the Nelson and 71st last week.

Granted, he dropped back through the field pretty alarmingly at Bethpage but the putter was largely to blame and I'd rather take a favourable view of the fact he was inside the top five at the halfway stage.

That suggests he's close and Berger said as much when speaking with the media last Friday.

"My game has been trending," he said. "I haven't had quite the results that I wanted, but I felt like incrementally I've gotten better over the last three or four weeks."

Finally fit and inspired no doubt by his good friend Koepka, Berger could be set to ignite and at a course which should allow him to strut, he's added to the staking plan.

Berger shares a coach with Jordan Spieth and both will be excited to spend a week in Texas, particularly so the latter after third place in the PGA Championship.

Like many, I've been waiting patiently for Spieth to emerge from his slump, but now that it has happened I find myself lacking the conviction to back him for a tournament he's won before and will likely win again.

Why that is I'm not sure, except to say that one swallow doesn't make a summer and I'd have been more inclined to chance him at 25/1 following the odd positive than I am to go in at 14/1 following a top-five.

Ian Poulter also makes the shortlist, but I'll finish off with a couple at bigger prices, starting with J.T. Poston.

This 25-year-old looks to have something about him and is the sort of player who will burst into contention at some stage, having started to find his feet in 2019.

Last week he fought hard to make the cut at Bethpage, where he led the field in driving accuracy, and it sets him up really nicely for a return to Colonial, where he's shot a round of 65 in both visits.

Poston was fourth through 54 holes last year only to stumble and has shown more than enough in two visits to suggest that this is a potential venue for the breakthrough.

Finally, I can't leave out Graeme McDowell after he left Bethpage pleased with his work at a course which was set up to prevent him from contending.

I'd been banging the drum for a big year for McDowell before he won in the Dominican Republic, but hopefully we can be on for his second win of the season as Colonial is made for him.

McDowell was 29th here on his 2017 debut, but he's in better form now and has kicked on from winning, taking seventh in the Texas Open, 48th in the Heritage, 18th in the Zurich Classic and an admirable 29th last week.

Back on a course where his skill set can shine, this is another good chance to take a step towards an Open place at Portrush and at 80/1 he's worth a bet.

Posted at 1240 BST on 21/05/19.

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