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A new-look Colonial Country Club produced old-time scoring in the first round of the 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge. Playing firmer and faster as the day progressed, Colonial played to an average of just about 1 over, with those players off in the morning wave receiving the easiest of the conditions.

Charley Hoffman tops the congested leaderboard thanks to a 5-under 65 with a number of heavy hitters close behind him, including Tony Finau. Fresh off a strong performance last week at Valhalla, where his putter proved uncooperative, Finau leaned on that very club en route to his 4-under 66 on Thursday.

"I think right out of the gate I made a 60-foot birdie putt, and I think it kind of got me under way," Finau said. "The golf course is quite a bit different than it's been years in the past, and so a little bit unfamiliar, I think, with how maybe it's going to bounce and how it's going to play, but with the 4-under round I thought that was a really nice start."

Finau is joined at that number by Brian Harman, Davis Riley, Martin Laird and S.H. Kim, who were all clipped by Hoffman late in the afternoon as winds picked up. The playoff loser from earlier in the season in Phoenix will have a chance for a quick turnaround to push his lead out even further Friday morning when scoring should be easier.

Not only is the immediate chasing pack large, nearly half the field remains within five of the lead. Collin Morikawa — fresh off another contention run in a major championship — is only two adrift at 2 under, along with Sepp Straka and J.T. Poston. Min Woo Lee, Tom Kim, Harris English and Billy Horschel stand at 1 under.

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler will have his work cut out for him if he is to play his way back into this tournament. Getting to 2 under early in his round, the Texan looked like he was going to do his usual thing and card an under-par round to sit somewhere on the first or second page of the leaderboard. Instead, a couple of dropped shots before the turn and a poor tee shot into the par-3 13th resulting in a triple bogey — his first since Round 1 of the 2023 Tour Championship — has the local man on his back foot with an opening 2-over 72.

The leaders

1. Charley Hoffman (-5)
T2. Tony Finau, Brian Harman, Davis Riley, Martin Laird, S.H. Kim (-4)

It's been a somewhat quiet season so far for the Champion Golfer of the Year, but he has made some noise on shorter positional golf courses like Colonial. Harman has done damage at TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town Golf Links, and he looks to add Colonial to that list after opening with a 4-under 66. Despite only hitting eight fairways, the fiery left-hander dotted 15 greens in regulation and was among the leaders in terms of strokes gained approach.

"I loved the old course so much, I had so many laps around this place, it's one that I always had circled," Harman said. "I felt like I had a little bit of knowledge, especially on the younger guys trying to play Colonial for the first couple times. But, yeah, we're all on the same footing now, but I feel like the essence of the course is still the same. You got to hit some really demanding tee shots, and if you can pull those off, you get some shorter clubs into the holes. So I don't feel like that the main theme of this place has changed a whole lot."

Other contenders

T7. Robby Shelton, Hayden Buckley, Pierceson Coody, Callum Tarren, C.T. Pan (-3)
T12. Collin Morikawa, J.T. Poston, Zach Johnson, Brendon Todd, Sepp Straka, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Grayson Murray (-2)

Ever since his run at the Masters, Morikawa has been running downhill. He was featured in the final group in the final round at the second straight major championship last week in Louisville, and he has continued to keep a good thing going this week with a first-round 68. While much has been made of the trajectory of the two-time major champion's iron play, it has been a massive stride with his short game which should take notice. Carding a total of three birdies on Thursday, Morikawa holed out twice from off the greens and continues to enjoy a level of competence in this area of the game he has not seen before.

Stars start over par

Coming into the week, Scheffler, Jordan Spieth and Max Homa were among those names at the top of the odds board. After just 18 holes, they find their names near the projected cutline and in jeopardy of missing the weekend entirely. After playing 40-plus rounds without signing for an over-par score, Scheffler has now carded two over-par rounds in his last three dating back to last week's PGA Championship. 

Spieth has been up and down all season, and it looks like a return to the typically comfortable Colonial may have brought a sense of steadiness with his first-round 71 (just about course average). Homa was the worst of the bunch, struggling to an 8-over 78 on Thursday with a round that featured everything from a near shank off the tee to a penalty drop. The good news is the winning score in this tournament last year was 8 under, but the bad news is they have some work to do.

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge updated odds and picks

  • Tony Finau: 7-1
  • Scottie Scheffler: 8-1
  • Brian Harman: 8-1
  • Collin Morikawa: 8-1
  • Sepp Straka: 22-1
  • Charley Hoffman: 22-1
  • Keegan Bradley: 25-1
  • Christiaan Bezuidenhout: 25-1
  • S.H. Kim: 28-1

The afternoon played about one stroke more difficult than the morning, meaning someone from the late crop of players on Thursday should have a great chance to make their mark on this tournament Friday morning. Scheffler is among this group, but it will be his playing partner, Horschel at 40-1, who draws our interest. 

A winner already this season on the PGA Tour, Horschel was solid throughout the bag with an opening 69 and should do even better tomorrow if the iron play takes a step in the right direction. If yo're looking for a little more bang for the buck, then Spieth at 65-1 could be a fun (depending on your definition) play especially with the way he is driving the ball.