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Another close call last week with Phil Mickelson nailing an 11-footer on the 72nd green to grab a tied 4th. Lefty, who shot -14 overall, played the 18th hole in +5 across the week, losing 5 shots to Rory McIlroy in the process. The World Number 1 looked at his imperious best capturing his 11th PGA Tour title and this week sees him in Surrey, England to defend his Wentworth title. That's undoubtedly the highlight of the golfing week with Paul Williams' preview giving you all the required lowdown on the marquee event on the European Tour.
2015 Punters League
Congratulations to Jamie Hennessey who incredibly won for the second consecutive week. His inspired Patrick Rodgers selection delivered yet another £/€25 free bet courtesy of Paddy Power. Overall Simon Blight reduced Sean Colgan's Punters League lead after 19 weeks. New entrants are always welcome, so enter your 6 players across Wentworth and Colonial on our facebook group now.
Colonial Country Club is an Invitational mainstay of the PGA Tour. The Colonial National Invitation was established in 1946 and the Crowne Plaza Invitational, as it's known today, has a reduced 124-man field. A schedule which has seen the Cadillac World Matchplay, The Players Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship in consecutive weeks has led to a field that's weaker than previous editions, but nonetheless Masters champion Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and defending champion Adam Scott all feature. So here's my Crowne Plaza Invitational preview which walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: Colonial CC sits in the same classical course category as Torrey Pines, Augusta, Riviera, Bay Hill, Quail Hollow, and Muirfield. At 7,204 yards this Bredemus and Maxwell-designed Par 70 cannot be overpowered. The tree-lined parkland course features pure Bentgrass greens that are extremely small at an average size of only 4,400 sq.ft. That move to Bentgrass putting surfaces should not be underestimated as Colonial marks the start of a long run of Bentgrass greened courses which will dominate the latter end of the season.
Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas: Designer: Bredemus /Morris 1936; Course Type: Classical; Par: 70; Length: 7,204 yards; Fairways Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 3"; Greens: Bent, 4,400 sq.ft average; Tournament Stimp: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.13 (+1.13), Difficulty Rank 13 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.90 (-0.10), Difficulty Rank 24 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.27 (+0.27), Rank 19 of 48 courses.
Course Overview: Colonial provides its winners with a plaid jacket that's extremely similar to those handed to the champions at Harbour Town. The similarities don't end there as the two courses share traditional values in the modern world of the PGA Tour. Colonial is short by today's standards, but the course only features 24 acres of fairway making tee-shot target areas extremely small. Errant drives are captured by tough Bermudagrass rough with most fairways on the property being tree-lined ensuring plenty of blocked approach shots for those that deviate. Slashing the ball from the tee is a real negative around Colonial where high GIR numbers are richly rewarded. Birdie conversion here though is perennially low with the greens having nuances that take real time to understand. No wonder therefore that older, patient players tend to thrive here.
Winners: 2014: Scott (-9); 2013: Weekley (-14); 2012: Z Johnson (-12); 2011: Toms (-15); 2010: Z Johnson (-21); 2009: Stricker (-17).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Crowne Plaza Invitational predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Jordan Spieth (Predictor number 1), Zach Johnson (twice winner), Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner (twice runner-up) and Ryan Palmer.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10 tournament window that stretches back to the WGC Cadillac Championship / Puerto Rico Open weekend and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2014: Scott 18/1; 2013: Weekley 100/1; 2012: Johnson 16/1; 2011: Toms 33/1; 2010: Johnson 50/1; 2009: Sticker 28/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Colonial is here. Where 2014 played firm and fast with relatively light Texan breezes, 2015 will see that trend reverse. The Fort Worth area has received a lot of rain in both April and May and heavy thundery downpours on Sunday and today (Tuesday) will undoubtedly make the course play super soft. Typically humid and thundery conditions for this time of the year could mean more rain and potential delays throughout the week So should we expect really low scoring? Breezes on Thursday and Friday won't provide much of a defence, however watch out though at the weekend where gusting winds up to 40 km/h on Saturday and 30 km/h on Sunday will make life difficult and should put a premium on ball-striking.
Major Championship Cut Offs: Here's a list of players by current OWGR who aren't yet qualified for the US Open (Top 60) and the Open Championship (Top 50). This weekend marks the cut-off for OWGR qualifying categories across both Majors. Current OWGR in brackets: Ben Martin (50), Charley Hoffman (53), Marc Leishman (56), Kevin Kisner (63), Daniel Berger (68), Kevin Streelman (70), Robert Streb (73), Russell Knox (76), Graham Delaet (78), Sangmoon Bae (80), Shawn Stefani (81), Brian Harman (86), Steve Stricker (89), James Hahn (94), George McNeill (97), Chesson Hadley (99), Scott Piercy (100), Angel Cabrera (103 - USOQ), Jonas Blixt (105 - OCQ), Jason Kokrak (111), Carlos Ortiz (112), Boo Weekley (113), Erik Compton (114 - USOQ), Jerry Kelly (115), Daniel Summerhays (116), Pat Perez (119) Steven Bowditch (120).
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Short prices are where the PGA Tour has been at since Doral back in March apart from Matt Every's 300/1 win at Bay Hill. Dustin Johnson 22/1, Jordan Spieth 16/1, Jimmy Walker 25/1, J.B. Holmes 28/1, Jordan Spieth 11/1, Jim Furyk 25/1, Justin Rose 11/1, Rickie Fowler 60/1 and last week Rory McIlroy at 4/1. Colonial has a habit of producing shorter priced winners as well. Adam Scott delivered at 18/1 12 months ago, although the in-form Boo Weekley bucked the trend in 2013 when he won at a generous 100/1. Previous to that winners prices at the Crowne Plaza Invitational read : 2009: 28/1, 2010: 50/1, 2011: 33/1, 2012: 16/1.
It's clear that experience wins around Colonial and, with that in mind, every winner here since 2005 has had Major Championship Top 10s on their CVs. This classical course demands the ultimate balance of driving accuracy, top quality ball-striking and sub 1.75 putts per GIR putting. With softer conditions expected, finding the fairway will become easier across Thursday and Friday before the expected change up in wind conditions. Scoring should be low therefore on greens that will be incredibly receptive. Look for strong wedge players and consistent long iron players. From Saturday onwards sound wind-play will be required, but the course should remain scoreable to those who can plot their way around.
My selections are as follows:
Soft conditions play perfectly into the hands of local Coleyville resident and all-round Lone Star State performer Ryan Palmer. The 38 year-old, who will be making his 12th PGA Tour outing at Colonial, is a course member as is his caddie James Edmondson and it goes without saying that the 3-time PGA Tour winner would love to win on his home patch. After finishing 5th here 12 months ago, when asked about the meaning of the tournament Ryan replied, "I think this tournament has so much meaning to me. And it means so much to me to try to win. I can't explain what it would feel like if I did do that."
Now established in the World's Top 50, Palmer has delivered 3 Top-10s in 2015 across PGA West, TPC Scottsdale and TPC San Antonio. 2nd at TPC Scottsdale featured the typical soft conditions that Palmer thrives upon and his 6th at TPC San Antonio was a result of a strong finish in typically windy Texas conditions that Ryan is accustomed to. Palmer is a Par 70-positive player whose approach play is top-notch right now and this Texas specialist could well emulate recent winners David Toms and Boo Weekley, both of whom succeeded after long winless streaks here.
You get the feeling that 37 year-old Paul Casey knows that his next PGA Tour win is coming soon and Colonial this week offers up a fantastic opportunity. It's worth rewinding to 2009 when Casey broke into the World's Top 10 with his first PGA Tour win at the GC of Houston after finishing 2nd at the World Matchplay. Many had backed Casey to win at Augusta, but Paul had to make do with 20th position at The Masters before moving on to 15th at Harbour Town and 11th at TPC Sawgrass. A return to England then saw Casey take his biggest career victory to date at Wentworth, followed by an exceptional 5th in soft conditions on course debut here at Colonial. This snapshot highlights the fact that Paul has always loved to play tree-lined, classical golf courses and bentgrass greens in particular. Momentum in 2015 has seen Casey re-establish himself in the World's Top 50 with 2nd at Riviera, 3rd at PGA National, 9th at Augusta and an incredibly tight Quarter Final defeat to the World Number 1 at the recent World Matchplay. Fighting fit after a short break in California, Casey will relish soft conditions and any Texan wind this week.
Charley Hoffman is another player who arrives in Texas with momentum and will undoubtedly relish the opportunity to play again on his favoured Bentgrass greens. Fresh from his first ever Major Top 10 at Augusta, The Hoff is undoubtedly playing some of the best golf of his career right now and softer conditions will suit Charley on a course that the 38 year-old has plenty of positive memories of. His compatibility with the course becomes clearer when you see that as a Tour rookie back in 2006 he shot opening rounds of 65-66 to sit a shot back from the lead. To date results have never been stellar here, but 30th in 2006 improved to 13th and 18th in 2012 and 2013, plus linkable form across PGA West, Harbour Town, TPC River Highlands, Congressional, TPC Boston and his most recent win at El Camaleon abounds. If you're looking for a proven Texas performer, Charley's CV also contains excellent Lone Star results at TPC San Antonio (2nd 2011, 3rd 2013), GC of Houston (6th 2008), La Cantera (8th 2006, 9th 2009) and TPC Four Seasons (8th 2006, 7th 2008, 8th 2013).
Let's be honest, backing John Senden doesn't excite the masses, but I'm taking the 44 year-old on a course where he's finished 9th (2004), 8th (2011), and 5th (2014) in 12 appearances. A hip injury has dogged the 2-time PGA Tour winner since he finished 5th at TPC Boston last August, but after months of rehabilitation a pain-free Senden sprung a huge shock by playing excellently at TPC Harding Park 3 weeks ago. Round Robin wins over Henrik Stenson, Bill Haas and Brendon Todd powered Senden into the last 16 before he overturned in-play 2nd favourite Hunter Mahan in the Last 16. John eventually lost only to finalist Gary Woodland in the Quarter Finals. That huge up-swing in form then translated itself to The Players Championship where the Aussie was his usual efficient self in finishing a career best 8th. Senden made 20 Birdies (5th) and was 4th in Strokes Gained Putting at TPC Sawgrass, so I see no reason why he won't continue to go well this week on the pure Bentgrass greens he loves.
Finally I'll take a former winner here in the shape of Boo Weekley. 3 Top 10 finishes in 2015 at PGA West (7th), Puerto Rico (6th) and TPC Louisiana (3rd) highlight a player that is in the ascendancy. More than that, his general improvement this season (he actually finished 2nd in Jackson last autumn) is almost a mirror image of the situation the popular 41 year-old Floridian found himself in when he arrived in Fort Worth 24 months ago. Back then he had 3 Top 10s to his name across Puerto Rico (8th), Copperhead (2nd) and TPC Louisiana (6th) before arriving at an old-style, tree-lined course he tends to relish. Underestimate Weekley at your peril as he held off both Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson to win here and undoubtedly Weekley's accurate approach play and, more importantly for him his improved putting, is making him a competitive proposition right now. You get the feeling a win is due imminently.
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