Crowne Plaza Invitational: Side with the wily old winners at Colonial

The 18th green at Colonial Country Club
The 18th green at Colonial Country Club

Steve takes a look at this week's PGA Tour action from Texas, where Jordan Spieth will be bidding to get back to winning ways but it's the old guard that Steve thinks we should be keeping onside. Read our man's comprehensive preview here...


"Zach Johnson put in a disappointing effort 12 months ago when he trailed in 73rd but his form figures between 2009 and 2014, reading 9-1-4-1-3, demonstrate how much he loves Colonial. His tied 13th at the Players Championship was a decent enough effort last time out, as was his top-ten finish in the US Masters, and he’s impossible to ignore."

Tournament History

The Crowne Plaza Invitational is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour. It was first staged in 1946 and Ben Hogan won the first two editions before going on to win it three more times in the fifties. Nobody else has won it more than twice. The winner receives a tartan jacket and their name is etched onto a marble display cast.


Venue

Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas


Course Details

Par 70 -7,204 yards
Stroke Index in 2014 - 70.27

Designed by John Bredemus and opened in 1936, Colonial Country Club staged the US Open as soon as 1941, after Perry Maxwell had altered holes 2, 3 and 4. This wonderful classic course has hosted this event since its inception and on the US Tour, only the US Masters has been staged at the same venue for longer.

Colonial is a tight, tree-lined track with 12 dog-legged holes and small bentgrass greens that usually run at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on six holes and the course is littered with strategically placed fairway bunkers.

The par 5 1st once again ranked as the easiest hole on the course last year and the par 4 2nd is also a birdie opportunity but the next three faced, which were the only holes Maxwell altered prior to the US Open in 1941, are nicknamed the 'horrible horseshoe' and they consistently rank as the three toughest.

The 483 yard 3rd nearly always averages over par, and so does the lengthy par 3 4th. Once through those two holes the par 4 5th is the toughest on the track and players can soon give up early gains made at the opening two holes. Last year, the three holes combined averaged 0.62 over-par.

Colonial CC is often affectionately referred to as 'Hogan's Alley' after five-time winner Ben.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Details
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2014 - Adam Scott -9 (Playoff)
2013 - Boo Weekley -14
2012 - Zach Johnson -12
2011 - David Toms -15
2010 - Zach Johnson -21


What Will it Take to Win The Crown Plaza Invitational?

Very occasionally someone overpowers Colonial to win. Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson both ranked inside the top-five for Driving Distance when they won in 2005 and 2008 respectively but accuracy from the tee is far more important than power. Two of the last three winners, Adam Scott last year and Zach Johnson in 2012, ranked in the 50s for Driving Distance, so you certainly don't need to be long and four of the last five winners ranked inside the top-ten for Driving Accuracy.

Finding the fairway, and even the right section of the fairway, is important because you need to hit lots of greens here to win. The first six home two years ago ranked inside the top-nine for Greens In Regulation and five of the last seven winners have ranked inside the top-six for greens hit.

In addition to Greens In Regulation, the Ball Striking and Par 3 Scoring stats may be worth analysing. The Ball Striking stats are calculated by combining the Total Driving and GIR stats and last year's winner, Scott, is currently ranked second in that category. And 12 months ago, Scott became the sixth winner in 10 years to rank number one on the short holes.

You need to scramble well to win. Even the most accurate iron players will miss the small greens on occasions and getting up-and-down regularly could be the difference between winning and losing. Boo Weekley, who ranked 5th for both GIR and Putting when he won two years ago, is the only winner since 1997 (as far back as I could go) who hasn't ranked inside the top-18 for Scrambling.

All of the above is totally irrelevant if you don't putt well though - eight of the last ten winners have had a putting average ranking for the week of sixth or better.

An ability to handle windy conditions is often essential in Texas and that looks like being the case again this week with early forecasts suggesting a breezy week and an especially blowy Sunday.


Is There an Angle In?

For many a year, both Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson have been standing dishes here and at Deere Run and, like Stricker and Johnson, Kenny Perry has won both this title and the John Deere Classic, so form at that event might be worth looking at closely. It's a similar test to this on another fairly short course.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

With length an irrelevance, the wily old pros have a really great chance to add to their silverware. And I say add because the vast majority of winners here have already bagged plenty of titles. Since 1996, the winner here has won an average of 10 times in total. Sergio Garcia, in 2001, was the last player under the age of 30 to win and eight of the last 17 winners have been aged 40 or over.

Colonial is a course that takes a bit of getting to know and debutants have a poor record. Historically, the winners have already played the event eight times on average and it's rare to see someone win their first PGA Tour event here.

Garcia was the last first timer to win, in 2001, but he'd already won in Europe and before that, Ian Baker-Finch won his first PGA Tour title in this event in 1989 but he too had already tasted success, having already won Down Under. We all know how good Sergio is and Baker-Finch won an Open Championship so my advice would be to avoid the debutants and maidens altogether but if one did happen to win, follow them going forward because they might just be top-class.


In-Play Tactics

Last year's renewal was a strange one for a number of reasons. It was the first time this century that the winner failed to reach double-digits under-par and Scott was just the second winner this century to fail to break 70 on day one. In fact, he played his first nine holes in four-over-par and he was matched at 470.0469/1 in-running before rallying to end the day in a tie for 64th after an opening 71. That left him six adrift after the first day and he was still six back at halfway - as was Garcia in 2001.

Olin Browne trailed by seven at halfway and Rory Sabbatini was even further back in 2007, when he trailed by eight, so it is possible to recover from a slow start but it's unusual. Those four, Scott, Garcia, Browne and Sabbatini, are the only four winners in the last 20 years to be outside of the top-10 at halfway and making up ground after round three is seemingly impossible. The last 13 winners have all been within two of the lead after three rounds but bizarrely, given you clearly need to be right up with the pace, Mickelson, in 2008, was the last third round leader to go on to win.


Market Leaders

I don't think it's merely coincidental that world number one, Rory McIlroy, has won twice since Jordan Spieth waltzed home at Augusta and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Spieth raised his game here after Rory's impressive display in North Carolina over the weekend.

We have the potential for one of the game's great rivalries if these two keep playing like they have of late and given Spieth has finished 7th and 14th here in two starts to date and that his first PGA Tour title was gained at the aforementioned John Deere Classic, I wouldn't be in a rush to put anyone off him here. I was mildly tempted to play the rapidly improving Texan but he missed the cut at the Players last time out and the understandable lull after winning his first major may not yet be over.

Zach Johnson put in a disappointing effort 12 months ago when he trailed in 73rd but his form figures between 2009 and 2014, reading 9-1-4-1-3, demonstrate how much he loves Colonial. His tied 13th at the Players Championship was a decent enough effort last time out, as was his top-10 finish in the US Masters, and he's impossible to ignore.

No doubt buoyed by his recent success in his home state at the Texas Open, Jimmy Walker makes the line-up here for just the third time. He finished way down in 56th on debut five years ago but made the top-10 last year. He's not the most accurate off the tee but he's been putting well all year so can't be discounted readily.

Fellow Texan, Ryan Palmer has a similar profile and probably represents better value. He too isn't especially accurate off the tee but he's also been putting well this year. This will be Palmer's 12th appearance at Colonial and the experience is starting to pay dividends. He's finished 5th in two of the last three renewals and he's another that's hard to dismiss with ease.

Defending champ, Adam Scott, looks all at sea on the greens just lately, as he ditches the long putter one week then goes back to it the next. The Aussie makes little appeal and although he has all the right attributes for Colonial, Paul Casey has only won once in the States and is also readily overlooked at the prices. His sole success, at the Shell Houston Open six years ago, was at least in the same state but I'd have been more interested in him this week if he hadn't have given up his European Tour membership and was playing in the BMW PGA Championship (previewed here).


Selections

Zach Johnson was a no-brainer pick given his current and course form and I've also backed a couple of outsiders.

This will be Jerry Kelly's 16th appearance at Colonial and the best he's managed so far is 7th in 2007 but there's still time for him to improve on that. He was in impressive form at the Players Championship last time out when he finished inside the top-22 for the third event in-a-row and if he holds that form, I can see him contending.

Ben Crane has won five times on the PGA Tour and the last of the five came right out of the blue at around this time last year when he held on grimly to win the FedEx St Jude Classic. The Texas resident has three top-fives and a 10th placed finish to his name around Colonial and at a huge price I thought he was worth chancing.


Selections:
Zach Johnson @ 18.017/1
Jerry Kelly @ 200.0199/1
Ben Crane @ 330.0329/1


I've got my eye on one or two other outsiders but I've not managed to get matched yet. I'll update the preview and tweet again, as, when and if I do get matched and if I don't, I'll be back on Thursday night with the In-Play Blog.


UPDATE
16:00 - May 20, 2015

Since first publishing on Monday, I've now backed four more players, albeit extremely modestly.

The 2013 winner, Boo Weekley, has been playing well of late and more importantly he's been putting well. He's a very reliable tee-to-green performer that's often held back by his performances on the green so when he's waiving the wand well he has to be respected, especially at a venue he clearly loves.

I thought out of form, two-time runner-up, Jason Dufner, was worth throwing a few pounds at 130.0129/1 and I've also backed former winner, David Toms, and the ridiculously accurate, Jason Bohn, who really caught my eye at Quail Hollow last week when he finished tied for 9th.


Late Selections:
Boo Weekley @ 90.089/1
Jason Dufner @ 130.0129/1
Jason Bohn @ 150.0149/1
David Toms @ 170.0169/1


I'll be back tomorrow night when I'll kick off the In-Play Blog after day one of the BMW PGA Championship (previewed here).

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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