Crowne Plaza Invitational: Back-to-back Boo the answer, says The Punter

Boo Weekley - Can he make a successful defence?
Boo Weekley - Can he make a successful defence?

Our man takes a look at this week's US PGA Tour event in Texas, where he thinks Boo Weekley can retain his title. Read his detailed preview here...

“Other than this event last year, Boo Weekley’s only other wins on the PGA Tour came at The heritage in 2007 and 2008, so he knows how to win back-to-back.”

Tournament History

First staged in 1946, the Crowne Plaza Invitational is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour. 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 2013 - 69.9

Colonial Country Club staged the US Open in 1941 and it's hosted this event since its inception and, on the US Tour, only the US Masters has been staged at the same venue for longer. It's a tight, tree-lined track with 12 dog-legged holes and small bentgrass greens that run at 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 and par 4 2nd once again ranked as the easiest holes on the course last year but the next three faced, which were the only holes altered prior to the US Open in 1941, nicknamed the 'horrible horseshoe', ranked 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. 

Ben Hogan won the inaugural event and then four times subsequently, which is why Colonial CC is often affectionately referred to as 'Hogan's Alley'.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Details
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days - 20:00 on Thursday and Friday and 18:00 on Saturday and Sunday


Last Five Winners

2013 - Boo Weekley -14
2012 - Zach Johnson -12
2011 - David Toms -15
2010 - Zach Johnson -21
2009 - Steve Stricker -17 (Playoff)


What will it take to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational?

Power off the tee is an irrelevance this week, it's all about accuracy - you need to avoid the fairway bunkers and find the right portion of the fairways to attack the small greens.  And with 12 doglegged holes, an ability to shape the ball both ways is a big plus. 

With the first six home 12 months ago all ranking inside the top-10 for greens hit, the main stat to concentrate on is Greens in Regulation but the PGA Tour's Ball Striking stats is also worth close inspection. The Ball Striking stats are worked out by combining the Total Driving stats and GIR and I'd be surprised if this week's winner doesn't feature high up there.


Is there an identikit winner?

We've already witnessed eight first time winners on the PGA Tour this season but I doubt we'll see another this week. The last debutant to take this title was Sergio Garcia in 2001 but he'd already won in Europe and he's one of just eight men to win his first PGA Tour title at Colonial in its 66 year history. Since 1996, the winner here has averaged 10 previous PGA Tour wins. Sergio was also the last winner under the age of 30 - experience is most certainly the key. 

With length unimportant and accuracy key, this is a venue where the older pros do very well. Garcia's 2001 victory was the last time a player under the age of 30 won and eight of the last 16 winners have been aged 40 or over. 

Experience of the course is very important and the average number of event starts the winners have had before bagging the title is 8.17.


In-Play Tactics

Weekley was five shots off the lead and tied for 23rd after round one last year and other than Rory Sabbatini in 2007, who trailed by seven after day one, that's the furthest any winner has trailed after the first day. The two winners prior to Boo had led after day one and in 2009, eventual winner, Steve Stricker beat Tim Clark in playoff on Sunday, after both men had tied for the lead on Thursday. A fast start is a big plus. 

I highlighted in my De-Brief yesterday how more than half of this year's PGA Tour winners have led with a round to go but the last five winners here have all entered the final round trailing - albeit only just. The last four trailed by a stroke with a round to go and Stricker in 2009 trailed Clark by two and that's as far from off the pace as any winner has come from through 54 holes since Sergio won from five back in 2001. In the eight years before Stricker, every winner had either led or co-led after three rounds so don't be in a rush to oppose the front-runners - especially given how well they've been doing so far this season.


Market Leaders

With the European Tour hosting its flagship event this week, the BMW PGA Championship, previewed here, we may have expected a weak event stateside but that's not really the case. Brand new world number one Adam Scott is in attendance, as are another 19 players ranked inside the top-50 in the world but it's world ranked number 13 Zach Johnson who heads the market...

Given he's won this twice and that he hasn't finished any worse than fourth in the last four renewals (also ninth five years ago) it's hardly surprising to see Zach at the head of affairs. If I'd have been on the ball I'd have taken the 20.019/1 available when the market first opened so I'm kicking myself about that. It's no good cutting your nose off to spite your face though. Johnson's current form is certainly a concern - he hasn't quite been firing on all cylinders since winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions - but his course form is so good that, even at just 15.5, I couldn't leave him out.

Last year's runner-up, Matt Kuchar, is in incredibly good form. The only time he hasn't finished inside the top-five in his last six starts was the start after he'd won The Heritage, when he finished 17th at The Players Championship. He's highly likely to contend again here but as I've repeatedly stated, he just doesn't win often enough to be backed at short prices and the same can be said of third favourite, Jim Furyk...

The veteran has finished runner-up in each of his last two starts but on both occasions he's come from off the pace to do so. He's been a bag of nerves whenever he's been in-contention of late and he makes no appeal at the price, even though he's finished runner-up here a couple of times - in 1998 and 2007. 

Adam Scott has played here only twice, finishing 64th in 2009 and 65th in 2011, and he's hard to fancy and Jordan Spieth, who made his debut here last year when finishing seventh looks to have a much better chance.

In theory he's too young and inexperienced to prosper at Colonial but he's the sort of rare talent who is more than capable of blowing stats to smithereens and it's also worth noting that his only success to date came at the John Deere Classic. That's a similar test to this and an event Zach Johnson, and other Colonial winners, have won at before. 


Selections

Other than Zach Johnson, my only other play from the off is defending champion Boo Weekely.

He really caught the eye last week at the Byron Nelson Championship, where he finished fifth, despite ranking only 55th for putting.  Although there have been as many as 11 players to have won the event twice, and four have completed the double this century, the aforementioned Hogan is the only man to date to do so back-to-back. Defending is never easy but Boo has done so before...

Other than this event last year, his only other wins on the PGA Tour came at The Heritage in 2007 and 2008, so he knows how to win back-to-back.

In addition, I've also placed a small each-way double on Johnson and Luke Donald at Wentworth. That same double clicked two years ago and both men are looking to win the respective events for a third time.


Selections:
Zach Johnson @ 15.5
Boo Weekley @ 65.064/1


Each-way Double (Sportsbook)
Zach Johnson and Luke Donald - both at 14/1


I'll be back on Thursday evening or Friday morning with the In-Play Blog.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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