The PGA Tour remains in Texas this week for a fabulous old tournament with a brand new name. Read all about the Dean & Deluca Invitational here with Steve's in-depth preview...
"At 37, Argentina’s Fabian Gomez has been playing the best golf of his career recently. In two visits to Colonial he missed the cut on debut in 2013 and he finished 27th last year but this course short suit the canny shot-maker. He’s won twice in his last 23 PGA Tour starts and he finished a very impressive ninth in his penultimate start, at the Wells Fargo Championship on a course that would have been far too long. He looks a no-brainer bet to me at 190.0189/1."
First staged 70 years ago, the Dean & Deluca Invitational was previously known as the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Local resident Ben Hogan won the first two renewals before going on to win it again three more times in the '50s. Nobody else has won the title more than twice.
Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
Par 70 - 7,204 yards
Stroke Index in 2015 - 69.78
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 five first hole once again ranked as the easiest hole on the course last year and the par four second ranked the second easiest 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. Last year the trio ranked as the first, second and fourth hardest.
Colonial CC is often affectionately referred to as 'Hogan's Alley' after the five-time winner Ben.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday
Last Five Winners
2015 - Chris Kirk -12
2014 - Adam Scott -9 (Playoff)
2013 - Boo Weekley -14
2012 - Zach Johnson -12
2011 - David Toms -15
What Will it Take to Win The Dean & Deluca Invitational?
This is another event were what you do off the tee is largely irrelevant. You certainly don't need to be long and of the first 18 home 12 months ago, only Charley Hoffman, who finished tied 10th, ranked inside the top-20 for Driving Distance. He ranked seventh. The course isn't long by modern standards and it's all about strategy from the tee so players rarely even use the driver.
The winner, Chris Kirk, only ranked 40th for DD last year and remarkably, he only ranked 61st for Driving Accuracy, proving you don't need to be absolutely arrow-straight from the tee. That was unusual though and four of the five winners before Kirk ranked inside the top-ten for DA so I'd certainly favour accuracy over power.
Kirk's driving stats were poorer than you'd expect from the winner of any tournament on the PGA Tour and so too were his Scrambling and Greens In Regulation figures. Prior to last year, Boo Weekley, in 2013, had been the only winner since 1997 to rank any worse than 18th for Scrambling but Kirk bucked that trend by ranking just 36th and he ranked just 64th for GIR.
He somehow managed to get across the line ranking 40th for DD, 61st for DA, 36th for Scrambling and just 64th for GIR but the seven winners before him had all ranked inside the top-ten for GIR and/or Scrambling so they're key stats to concentrate on.
Given how poor the rest of his game was, it's hardly surprising to see that Kirk putted the lights out all week long. He took just 22 putts in round one and ended the week ranking first for Putts Per Round and second for Strokes Gained Putting. He led the field for birdies with 22 and he also eagled the par five first in round four.
I would definitely side with the accurate types with great GIR and Scrambling stats but Kirk showed us in no uncertain terms that a good week with the flatstick can make up for a lot and he was the ninth winner in 11 years to have a Putting Average ranking inside the top-six.
As is always the case in Texas, an ability to handle windy conditions is essential and judging by the forecast, that will again be the case this week. Storms are forecast for the first couple of days so a Monday finish isn't out of the question.
Is There an Angle In?
Form at the John Deere Classic, staged at Deere Run in Illinois, looks worthy of close examination. David Toms, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson have all won both titles. Brandt Snedeker and Tim Clark have both finished runner-up at both tournaments and Jordan Spieth, who's won two of the last three JDCs was runner-up here 12 months ago.
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 18 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.
Kirk was on the inexperienced side for a typical event winner. He'd only just turned 30, he was playing in the event for the sixth time and he was winning just his fourth PGA Tour title.
Garcia was the last first-timer to win, in 2001, but he'd already won in Europe and before that, Ian Baker-Finch landed 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.
The last two winners were seven and six strokes adrift and outside the top-ten at halfway and that's unusual. Prior to Scott's victory in 2014, Rory Sabbatini in 2007 and Sergio Garcia in 2001 had been the only two winners this century to be outside the top-ten and more than four strokes adrift through 36 holes.
Although you tend to need to be up with the pace throughout, being in front with a round to go isn't the place to be. Kirk was the first winner in 14 years to be more than two adrift (he trailed by three) after round three but nobody has converted a lead or co-lead through 54 holes since Phil Mickelson won here in 2008.
Anyone that witnessed how dreadfully bad Jordan Spieth played over the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson won't want to touch him with a barge pole! It was bad enough that his long game was off but it was so bad it fed into his usually brilliant short game. He ranked just 59th for Scrambling and his Putting Average ranking was 51st. He missed 12 of 22 putts between five and ten feet and despite his excellent course form figures of 7-14-2, he's very hard to fancy given the current state of his game.
He's also still looking to win in his home state of Texas for the first time and at 22, he certainly doesn't fit the age profile of a typical Colonial winner. He looks one to swerve and even one to take on this week.
I can't make my mind up about second favourite and 2014 winner, Adam Scott. He went off the boil after his purple patch in February and March but his 12th at the Players last time out was encouraging and given he's already won here he has to be respected but his course form isn't all special.
In three other visits he's never bettered 24th and even when he won he started ridiculously slowly. 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. He was still six back at halfway and I wonder whether he won because of an incredible weekend hot streak or whether he does actually like the course. All things considered, I fancy it could be the former and I'm happy to leave him out at the price.
It's impossible not to see the red-hot Matt Kuchar contending this week but it's equally hard to see him winning. He's notoriously difficult to get across the line and even though he arrives on the back of two straight third place finishes and that he was runner-up here in 2013. And that he has just the right profile to win this event, I can't back him to win. Those that don't mind taking fairly short prices in the place only markets might have a fairly comfortable week with Kooch though and I certainly wouldn't put anyone off a top-five or top-ten bet.
I thought I might fancy one or two towards the top of the market here but nobody quite made enough appeal so I'm kicking off the event with five outsiders.
The 2013 winner Boo Weekley has lost a few pounds working out in the last month or so and he looks ready to contend at the business end of an event. He caught my eye last week when he shot 62 in round two to make the cut and I thought he was way too big yesterday at 120.0119/1.
John Senden isn't setting the world alight this year but he's ticking over quite nicely and he fits the profile I was looking for. At 45 he's almost too long in the tooth now but he has three top-tens at Colonial, including a fifth two years ago, and he's also a former winner of the John Deere Classic.
At 37, Argentina's Fabian Gomez has been playing the best golf of his career recently. In two visits to Colonial he missed the cut on debut in 2013 and he finished 27th last year but this course short suit the canny shot-maker. He's won twice in his last 23 PGA Tour starts and he finished a very impressive ninth in his penultimate start, at the Wells Fargo Championship on a course that would have been far too long. He looks a no-brainer bet to me at 190.0189/1.
I've taken a small chance on 36-year-old Steve Marino who hasn't played here since finishing 16th in 2011. He was also 10th in 2008 and he really should have won a year later when beaten in a playoff by Steve Stricker. His career got derailed in January 2012 when he was diagnosed with a bone contusion on the tip of his tibia and femur in his left leg but he's shown signs of resurgence in form of late. He finished second in Puerto Rico in March, losing a playoff to Tony Finau, and he finished an under-the-radar 12th last week.
And finally, I've thrown a few pounds on last week's halfway leader, Ben Crane, who's another to fit the profile nicely. At 40-years-old, Ben has three top-five finishes here to his name and five PGA Tour wins. I know he was a bit disappointing over the weekend last week but that was the first time he'd contended in ages so given this course looks a better fit, I'm happy to overlook that at a huge price.
Boo Weekley @ 120.0119/1
John Senden @ 150.0149/1
Fabian Gomez @ 190.0189/1
Steve Marino @ 200.0199/1
Ben Crane @ 220.0219/1
I'll be back on Thursday or Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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