‘The D flight of the club championship’: Pros melt down at Charles Schwab
“Well, we got some highlights from the D flight of the club championship.”
At 4:32 p.m., Fort Worth, Texas, time on Sunday, Jim Nantz fired that shot over CBS’ airwaves. He wasn’t wrong. Penalty shots, penalty drops, bogeys, doubles and triples had the Charles Schwab Challenge looking like something more familiar to many of the weekend players watching from home, instead of the PGA Tour event it was claiming to be.
But wait. Hadn’t Davis Riley, at a little after 3 p.m. Fort Worth, Texas, time, also tapped in for birdie on the 11th at Colonial, moved to a respectable five-under for the day and took a one-shot lead? And didn’t four other players — Scottie Scheffler, Harold Varner III, Scott Stallings and Brendon Todd — shortly join him at the top?
That also happened.
So … what happened? Well, for one, none of those five won. And the man who did, Sam Burns, started the day a stunning seven shots back. Add it all up, toss in heavy winds, baked-out greens and a testing track, and it stands as one of the more chaotic 90 minutes you’ll see among the pros.
Let’s try to unpack it all. We’ll do so by looking at the five who were tied for the lead at one point at the D flight of the club … err, the Charles Schwab Challenge.
3:05 p.m.: Riley taps in for birdie on the par-5 11th. He leads by one over Varner, Scheffler and Todd.
3:25 p.m.: Riley dumps his tee shot on the par-3 13th into the left greenside bunker, blasts out to 3 feet — then misses that. Riley, Varner, Scheffer and Todd are tied for the lead. A few minutes later, Stallings joins them after a birdie on 11.
3:36 p.m.: Riley tees off on the next hole, drops his driver behind him on his follow-through — and watches his ball sail over a barbed-wire fence right of the hole. He hits a provisional — left and in the trees. Riley finishes with a double-bogey 6, and he tumbles out of the lead, which four now share.
Said analyst Trevor Immelman on the CBS broadcast: “Gosh, how the last five minutes or so have changed the complexion of this tournament for Davis Riley. Mind’s spinning.”
Later, Riley bogeys 17, too.
Said Riley afterward: “Unfortunately, I just had one bad swing today and kind of got it started right and then you mis-hit one and it just gets escalated at that point. Yeah, it was unfortunate, but yes, it’s extremely difficult.”
3:52 p.m.: Todd hits his third shot on the par-5 11th — and he nearly lets go of his club on his follow-through. From 110 yards out, from almost the middle of the fairway, Todd drops his ball into a right greenside bunker, misses a 9-footer for par, and he falls out of the lead, which three now share.
Said Immelman on the broadcast: “Pretty poor shot there from the middle of the fairway.”
Todd bogeys the next hole, too.
Scott Stallings and Harold Varner
We need to combine Stallings and Varner, who played together, because there may be some cause and effect here.
4 p.m. Stallings is trying to figure out where he can drop after hitting his ball 40 yards over the 12th green.
4:08 p.m.: Stallings drops — and, from 40 yards away, hits it 10 yards short.
4:11 p.m.: Varner, after waiting for Stallings, misses a 19-footer for par after hitting out of a greenside bunker — and misses from 3 feet for bogey and 3 feet for double bogey before making from 2 feet. That’s four putts. He falls out of the lead, which two now share.
“All that waiting,” analyst Ian Baker-Finch said on the CBS broadcast.
Later, Varner doubles 13, triples 14, birdies 15, pars 16, doubles 17 and bogeys 18 — for a back-nine 45.
4:13 p.m.: Stallings taps in for a bogey, and he falls out of the lead, which now only Scheffler holds.
Stallings bogeys 14 and 17, too.
Said Stallings afterward: “Man, I would like to see a video of my putt on 14. We read it kind of outside right, and just like the ball comes off the putter and just goes straight left. Everybody had to deal with it. The course was definitely very fair. But man, just kind of like I said yesterday, you kind of got some of those holes kind of up on top, some of the flat spots, and you could hear the tent — we were putting in that.”
4:21: Scheffler has a 3-footer for par on 12 — and his ball doesn’t touch the cup, missing to the right.
At this point, Burns, who had finished an hour ago, moves into a share of the lead. Which he wouldn’t give up. From the clubhouse.
“Who would have ever thought that you’d have a chance seven back?” Burns told reporters as he waited.
Golf is hard.