The PGA Tour makes the final stop in Texas for 2013 as Colonial Country Club plays host to the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Founded in 1946 as the Colonial National Invitation, the tournament has an unofficial association with Ben Hogan, who considered Colonial his home course and won the event 5 times. The winner of this event will net themselves $1,152,000.00 and also a traditional Scottish Tartan plaid jacket.
The event has “invitational” status and as a result it has a reduced field of 123 compared to 156 players in most full field regular season events. One unique aspect to this event is the Champion’s Choice, where former champions of the event pick two young players to receive a special invite. This year the honour is bestowed on Jordan Spieth and Franklin Corpening, both young Texans. Spieth has already made an impact this season with 3 top 10 finishes including a tied 2nd finish in Puerto Rico back in March.
Colonial County Club is a par-70 course which is short by modern standards at 7,204 yards and this has been reflected in winning totals, since 2000 the winning score has been -11 or lower. The course played host to a US Open in 1941 and also a US Women’s Open in 1991. As with most par-70 course, Colonial places an emphasis on ensuring players make scores on the par-4‘s, other than that there is not a specific type of player that is favoured at Colonial.
The list of past winners include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson all tasting glory here in past years. Zach Johnson collected his 2nd Tartan Jacket last year, his second in three years, following a superb showdown with Jason Dufner. His winning score in 2010 holds the record 4 round total at 259 (-21) where he played the par 4’s at -14 so it shows the importance of par-4’s here in building a winning total. Here are our thoughts on who could add their name to the list of winners and who might emerge as a surprise package.
5 For the Win
Rickie Fowler – Rickie has had a strange season thus far, in fact it has continued in a similar vain to his season in 2012 following his Wells Fargo win. He has had 3 top ten finishes, yet in all of those events he has had either one seriously poor round or two rounds where he lost ground on the field. He is 3-3 in cuts made at Colonial and finished tied in fifth place here last year, that rates as decent course form. He is very much a player to keep your eye over the next few weeks as the US Open heads to Merion, a course Fowler light up in 2009’s Walker Cup.
Jim Furyk – Furyk is very much suited to Colonial and it is a surprise to me that he hasn’t won here previously. He has finished in 2nd place here twice and also has two additional top five’s in his 17 appearances. 2012 was a year of near misses from Furyk, failing to convert winning positions in three events and also his singles match in the Ryder Cup. It’s a mark of his experience that he has not allowed that to effect his 2013 season though he has been relatively quiet by his high standards. I think he has to rate as one of the favourites for this week despite his missed cut last time out at Sawgrass.
Bo Van Pelt – It has been a relatively quiet season for Van Pelt, especially when you consider he finished 2012 with a win, 2nd & 3rd place finishes and 2 top tens in his last 5 worldwide starts for the year. He has one solitary top ten which came at Quail Hollow but he has also only missed one cut so far this year. His performances at Colonial have very solid; he has a couple of top fives, an additional top ten and is 9-9 in cuts made here. He can take great heart in the way he bounced back from a horror 79 in his third round at Sawgrass with a pleasing 68 and will be looking to pick his 2nd PGA Tour victory.
Zach Johnson – It would take a brave man not to include Zach Johnson in a list of five possible winners at Colonial. He has an outstanding record here, 7-7 in cuts made; two wins and has only finished outside the top 25 twice in his 7 appearances. Admittedly he has looked a tad inconsistent this season but that was pretty much how he looked prior to his 2010 victory. His putter had been unusually cold this season until his last three starts where the stats have got progressively better with each start.
Martin Laird – Having tucked away his third PGA Tour win in April at San Antonio’s Texas Open, Laird will view 2013 as a success so far. Amazingly he has actually missed the cut in half of his starts this season, including three of his last five but the two cuts made have resulted in a win and a top five at Sawgrass. He is making his third appearance at Colonial, his past two have resulted identical finishes of tied for tenth. His 2010 performance was particularly impressive as he shot all four rounds under par and coming off the back his impressive final round at Sawgrass, he will rate his chances highly of a second win in Texas.
5 Surprise Packages
Robert Karlsson – I am drawn to the fact that Karlsson is opting to play here rather than travel to Wentworth. As a past European Order of Merit winner he would have been given a major billing and has a decent record at Wentworth. It proves Karlsson is fully focused on picking up a win in America, something that has eluded him so far in his two and a half years as a full PGA Tour member. It is worth noting he finished 4th in 2011’s PGA Championship on a par-70 track, and has lost two playoffs at the par-70 TPC Southwind. His sole start at Colonial resulted in a top five finish and there have been glimpses in recent tournaments that his game is clicking into place again.
Luke Guthrie – Guthrie is the latest in an increasingly long list of young players moving seamlessly from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour. He has a top five finish to his name at PGA National, Par-70, and also a top ten at TPC of Louisiana; he also finished in the top five at last year’s John Deere Classic. He was a winner in Texas last season on the Web.com tour, the first of back to back victories that helped cement his promotion to the main tour. Of all the debutants this week, Guthrie appeals to me a lot as he has promised much in his PGA Tour career to date and he looks a player suited to Par-70 courses.
Stewart Cink – Its coming up to four years since Cink won The Open in tough conditions at Turnberry, perhaps being slightly misfortunate to have to beat Tom Watson in the process. He wasn’t a prolific winner prior to his Open win so the fact he hasn’t won since is not a major surprise but he had a particular lean year in 2012 with just four top 25 finishes. He has bettered 2012 already with five top 25’s, two of which have been top ten’s. His record at Colonial is superb, 14-14 for cuts made, seven of which have been top 25 finishes including a second and fourth place finish. His putter is the key, tee to green he is consistently good but he can hold himself back on the greens, however this is course he seems relish putting on.
Charlie Wi – The first of two selections that could be best described as from well out of leftfield. Charlie Wi has had a less than stellar 2013. He had a streak of four missed cuts prior to his last two starts, he has just two top 25’s to his name and has struggled to put together a tournament of consistency in all areas of his game. Two things appeal to me this week; one is the victory of Sang-Moon Bae last week, who he has acted as a mentor to since he joined the PGA Tour. The main appeal is his course form; he is 5-5 in cuts made and has a second place and two additional top 25 finishes. It might prove to be a speculative selection but Wi has a habit of producing a great tournament from nowhere.
Ricky Barnes – I was particularly impressed with the way Ricky went about posting a seriously good round in tough conditions on Sunday at Four
Seasons. It sets him up well for a trip to Colonial where he has a top ten finish to his name and will be hoping to add another off the back of his best finish of the season to date. Par-70 courses tend to suit Barnes; he came close to bagging the US Open in 2009 on a par-70 course and has a string of top tens on par-70 setups. A victory could be fanciful but a top ten or top five finish wouldn’t surprise me.