In our trusty college football parlance, last week’s mediocre Byron Nelson was the GoDaddy.com Bowl, which gives way to this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, our equivalent to the Cotton Bowl: prestigious, traditional, and entertaining. As one of only five invitational tournaments on tour (only the first 80 on the prior year’s money list are guaranteed spots), it serves as one of the most underrated stops on the circuit. Before proceeding further, it must be noted that Colonial hosted its proudest moment in 2008 when Scoops Callahan took his game to the next level:
(For more from Scoops Callahan, click here. You will enjoy.)
Colonial Country Club
Dating to 1936, Colonial Country Club is more commonly referred to as “Hogan’s Alley,” as the long time Fort Worth resident won the eponymous event five times in a fourteen year span. The 7,200 yard, par 70 layout is almost universally revered on tour, and hence rated as the 5th best course on the PGA Tour circuit, behind only Augusta, Harbour Town, Riviera, and Pebble Beach. Tour players tend to love courses that reward good ball striking with fair, predictable results, and that’s exactly what Colonial gives you. What’s amazing is that in nearly 70 years, the course has been lengthened by less than 200 yards, which owes to the fact that the course was considered long when it was built.
Colonial is a certified bird sanctuary, with the winning score being at least -11 every year since the year 2000, including Zach Johnson’s near 72 hole PGA Tour record of 259 (-21) in 2010. Every couple of years it seems we get a reasonable 59-watch, only to be disappointed. The course record of 61 is shared by six players, two of whom are Texas forever. You have to think there’s a good chance that we’ll see someone post a 60 in the next couple years.
Triple C’s – Is Rick Ross a member?
The layout (here’s a full hole-by-hole) is rare in that it’s feature holes are often played before coverage starts, but the three hole stretch of holes 3, 4, and 5 is the most demanding and most feared trio on the course. Framed by the Trinity River to its right, the fifth hole is known as one of the best par 4’s in the world. Yet again, we’re subjected to an unfortunate nickname for the three hole stretch, this time called the “Horrible Horseshoe.” (Sidebar: How long until a corporate sponsor sees the marketing potential for a stretch of holes and slaps a brand name on it? The possibilities are absolutely endless. Can’t you already hear Nantz, in his hushed tone: “Well David, we know what’s waiting for him around the corner, it’s the dreaded Deepwater Horizon brought to you by BP. We’ve already seen several oil spills here, but let’s see if he has enough gas to make it all the way to shore.”)
Since none of the four of us have actually been to Colonial, we asked longtime NLU ambassador David Byrne for his thoughts on the track, as he heads north to begin his 2014 conquest of the Canadian circuit:
The 1st hole is one of my favorites because it is a gentle hole to start on. Only par 5 on that side and a birdie is imminent BUT if you don’t hit the fairway it can make you start grinding right away. Holes 4 & 5 have to be grouped together. Until I actually played here I never realized the hole is over 240 yards and every time I’ve gotten out here it’s been 60 degrees and blowing 20 in my face and necessitated a 3 wood. Such a simple, yet difficult par 3. On #5 you can hit an absolutely perfect drive and still being saying to yourself, “Okay, bogey is good here.” Without a doubt the toughest drive on the course. A cut off the tee is what it calls for and if you are anywhere on the left side, a draw will most likely be the shot of choice coming in, with anything from 4 to 6 iron (save for a select few who’s distance supersedes logic). Incredible hole.
As for the back. The holes coming in are pretty neat. On 15, many guys will hit 3 wood, then a short to mid iron. I personally hit chief absolutely everywhere here (and really whenever I can). It’s a good birdie hole. But the 2nd shot makes the hole. It’s pretty with the water hazard left. A little tug and the hole just got harder. My favorite hole on the course is probably 16. It’s stuck in this corner of the property and at first glance you think it would be a flip wedge hole the way with the way it’s set up…but it’s 2 bills to a pretty tricky green. Just a sneaky difficult hole. Overall, the greens are PURE and so easy to read, which I think contributes to why the scores are consistently low. I love a guy like Sendo to play well here.
Obviously if you can’t tell already, the proprietors of NLU think VERY highly of this course – it’s nice to know we’re not alone! It should be noted that as our network of readers and followers keeps expanding we hope to incorporate more stuff like this into the site, and most especially our previews. (If any of our readers have experience or resources that could help us for future locations, please let us know!)
Another guest spot here – back by popular demand is NLU’s trusted, longtime MetroPlex correspondent, Andy Staron. After growing up in Dallas, Andy took his talents to the midwest for college, but failed to resist the Texas siren song, opting to return within a couple of years, this time to Fort Worth. Here’s his take on the area:
This week, the Tour heads over to the western confines of the Metroplex for a tournament right in the heart of Fort Worth. As with most of the state, it’s good times financially in Fort Worth for business these days. I’d imagine there are economic indicators out the ass that demonstrate this, but there’s probably none stronger than me actually landing a job here (and one that is basically a Ticket Oak this week, holla!). That and literally every damn road and a building every 3 blocks are under construction right now. The MexicansConstruction workers haven’t had a day off in years! And while the denizens of Fort Worth are all happy to be collecting a paycheck, it’s really good times for the local oligarchs: the Bass’s, Moncrief’s, Carter’s et al are absolutely cleaning up. The city’s power brokers have sprawled into the worlds of high finance, government, media and even the arts, but of course they all kick started their path to power with Black Gold. Texas Tea. Oil that is. This is Texas after all.
So what kind of characters can we expect to see on the grounds this week? Well, of Texas’ 5 major cities, Fort Worth easily best lives up to the stereotypical depiction of a Texan. I mean, when the rodeo is in town, I’m actually encouraged to wear boots and jeans to work. Hell, there’s a twice daily cattle drive that stops traffic just a mile or so north of downtown. Sadly, I don’t think too many belt buckles or ten gallon hats will be popping up in the background of your telecast this week. And the tank-top game probably won’t be as strong as last week either (the ‘see and be seen’ scene doesn’t drive as much of the attendance as it does at The Byron). Nope, I think you’ll pretty much see your stereotypical golf fan. White guys in their late 30’s/early 40’s with polos tucked into their high-waisted shorts following around their kid decked out in Puma (maybe Under Armour this year?) gear.
In what perpetually feels like a heavily one-sided dick measuring contest favoring Dallas, this is the one week a year where Fort Worth gets to whip out a trouser cobra, and they get to do it a week after Dallas fails to grow and/or show on a national stage. Colonial is absolutely a point of pride among locals. And that’s before mentioning the city gets to lay claim to Ben Hogan… Batman Ben, The Hawk, The Wee Ice Mon!
And on the subject of Hogan, his NYT obit sums it up better than I could ever attempt to.
Boo Weekley notched his first win in five years, edging Good Guy Matt Kuchar by one shot.
Weekley tried to pimp step this birdie putt that would have given him a two shot win, which I have nothing but respect for:
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Apologies in advance for being so chalky this week. It felt imperative to form a stable of ballstrikers for this week.
Horses for Courses
Zach Johnson (14/1) – The very definition of a horse for course, I’d argue these odds are shockingly long (would seriously bet him at 7/1 here). Over the last five years, his worst finish is 9th, and it includes four top-4 finishes, and two victories. He’s without a top-10 since the Valero Texas Open, but we’re back in Texas, and he obviously loves this place. Absolute must play for fantasy and a hammer for gambling purposes. WE TOOK THE PLEDGE!
Jordan Spieth (16/1) – See last week’s blurb on Spieth, and expect to see him here a lot over the next few months. He made it a point to say that this course really fits his eye better than the TPC Four Seasons does, and his T7 finish a year ago supports that assertion. No hesitation here.
Graham Delaet (25/1) – On the heels of T7 LW in Dallas, Delaet’s odds are a bit inflated but we’re still taking him. He was exceptional with his irons last week and is trending in the right direction after a midseason mini-slump. Finished T22 here LY with three rounds in the 60’s before fading on Sunday. Strong results in 2010, as well.
Ryan Palmer (33/1) – First round 62 LY. He finished T14 LY (62-72-71-67), T5 in ’12, T31 in ’11 (firmly in the mix until final round 73), carded a 63 in ’09, and finished T15 in ’08. As a Texas man, it’s almost like he wants this title too bad. However with two second place finishes already this year, Palmer’s been beating on the door. Also, he only wins in even-numbered years (’04, ’08, ’10), meaning it’s time. He’s a ballstriker’s ballstriker.
Chris Kirk (40/1) – Kirk really intrigues me here as he’s trending in the right direction and has been wayyyy too solid on this track with a T16 in his ’11 debut, T5 in ’12, and T33 LY after a lackluster Sunday. Feel like he’s been working on some things and showing glimpses of being close. We followed him at the Heritage and was impressed with his demeanor and ball flight.
Value Fliers –
John Huh (50/1) – Great track record here (T11 and T5 here the last two years), and coming off a T16 at the Byron Nelson along with a T3 at the RBC Heritage about a month ago. Surprisingly solid pick based on the metrics.
Boo Weekley (50/1) – Winner here last year, and quietly posted a T5 a week ago at the Byron Nelson. His history here other than his win is less than stellar, and his season other than last week is spotty, so this is far from a safe play, but there’s enough here to make it worth the risk.
Charley Hoffman (66/1) – Great value here. Plays well here (T18 and T13 the last two years), and has quietly had a solid if not spectacular stretch over the last 12 weeks or so. He finished T5 at the Zurich, and has made every cut this year outside of the AT&T in February.
Other names to consider for fantasy –
Kisner (form), Harman (hunch + final round 65 at Byron), Knox (hunch), Fowler (track record), English (hunch, feel like he’s on the verge of making some noise again in the same vein as Kirk) Sendo (would’ve put him above but mediocre track record here scared us off – his form is as good as it gets right now).
- Television cameras simply don’t do this course justice. It’s not lusciously green like Augusta, nor is it set against the mansions of the Pacific Palisades like Riviera, and it lacks any discernible flair other than the banks of the lazy Trinity River that ambles by. And the tournament itself doesn’t carry the street cred of The Players or The Memorial, and doesn’t feel like a huge event when you watch on TV. NLU will be rolling out a set of power rankings that rank each and every PGA Tour event beyond the bounds of the obvious. Colonial is borderline top-ten (inclusive of the majors). Stay tuned!
- David Frost won this event in 1997 and cashed a check for $288,000. Lefty won it three years later and took home $594,000. He won it again in 2008 for $1,098,000. Does Phil have a separate wing of his house dedicated just to Tiger? Does it have its own zip code? #TigerTax
- In 2005, Kenny Perry won $1,008,000 for his victory. In 1990, the TOTAL purse of the event was $1,000,000. I can never get enough of these bizarre money facts. It feels like I’m looking at mid-90’s steroid-infused baseball stats.
- Tron keeps bringing up vivid memories of 2001 when Sergio donned the plaid jacket after shooting 66-63 on the weekend. While most of us hated Sergio at the time, it’s impossible not to respect the insane traj he sported at the time – at one point during the final round his tee balls were clipping the rough fronting the tee box and he was getting 100-150 yards of roll. It was insane. If someone can somehow dig up footage of this please show it to us. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Sergio finished T8 the week prior at Byron Nelson, won Colonial, T2 at Memorial, T12 at US Open (ejected with a final round 77), won the Buick Classic (miss that course), T9 at British, and T11 at The International. Serg was 21 at the time.
- At what point do we send out a search party for Brandt Snedeker’s game? He’s making cuts, so that’s good. But with just one top ten finish on the season, he looks lost with the irons. To be fair, his 111th place FedEx Cup Standing has yielded well over $600k, so it’s tough to lament his standing too much. Mahan is wandering a bit these days, too.
- Hats off to Kenny Perry, who is busy vaporizing the Champions Tour after bagging his third straight major at the Tradition on Sunday. And he’s skipping the next major (Senior British) because his traj is too high. Classic! Also a fitting mention this week because he’s won Colonial twice (’03 & ’05), and his margin of victory was a combined 13 strokes. If we had a Champions Tour YOTTO Index, he may break the model.
BIG. ASS. TROPHY.
- In the discussion area below can we talk about the plaid jacket bestowed upon the Colonial winner and how it compares to the plaid jacket given out by Heritage? They’re almost identical. Hell can we just talk about all of these jackets?
- I’ll leave you with a video that summarizes Texas. In the meantime, enjoy the week and catch us on twitter for the pithiest of observations during coverage @NoLayingUp….