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We finish the Texas swing this week with our annual trip to Colonial CC for the freshly titled Dean & Deluca Invitational. Colonial rightfully takes secondary billing to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this week, but this looks set for a great tournament with a field that includes Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Jim Furyk plus South Africans Oosthuizen and Schwartzel. Colonial Country Club is an Invitational mainstay of the PGA Tour: the Colonial National Invitation was established in 1946 and the Dean & Deluca Invitational, as it's known today, has a reduced 123-man field and a 3-year exemption for the winner.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the BMW PGA Championship - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
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 square feet. Birdies are hard to come by at Colonial with the 2 par 5's amongst the toughest on Tour to birdie or better. Naturally we're now moving towards summer and Bentgrass putting surfaces 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; Holes with Water Hazards: 5; 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. 2015: 69.78 (-0.22), Difficulty Rank 21 of 52 courses.
Colonial Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Colonial and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
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 was a real negative until Chris Kirk's victory here 12 months ago. He hit only 50% of fairways (60th) and 63.9% of greens in regulation (62nd), which led to 11 bogeys (the highest of any recent winner). However a red-hot putter delivered 1 eagle (a rarity here) and 21 birdies to lead the field in par breakers and win by one. That was impressive as Colonial has perennially low birdie conversion with green complexes which have nuances that take real time to understand. No wonder therefore that experienced players, with a liking for tight par-70s, tend to thrive here.
Short game specialists (Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson) and ball-strikers (Adam Scott and Boo Weekley) have an equal chance of victory on this classical Colonial layout. Take Chris Kirk 12 months ago who scrambled and putted his heart out to take the victory by one shot. Prior to Kirk's victory, Adam Scott (2014) and Boo Weekley (2013) had diligently plotted their way around the par-70, both ranking in the top-10 for Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation. Power isn't an advantage around this layout where birdies are hard to come by - Colonial ranked 14th toughest in Birdie Average last term. Only 2 par-5s, namely the 1st and the 11th, ranked 5th toughest on Tour for Birdie or Better in 2015, so look for players who are comfortable to score on both par-3s and par-4s.
Winners: 2015: Chris Kirk (-12); 2014: Adam Scott (-9); 2013: Boo Weekley (-14); 2012: Zach Johnson (-12); 2011: David Toms (-13); 2010: Zach Johnson (-21).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for the this week which are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Dean & Deluca Invitational predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Adam Scott (Predictor Number 1) Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10 tournament window that stretches back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational / Indian Open includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. 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: 2015: Kirk 35/1; 2014: Scott 18/1; 2013: Weekley 100/1; 2012: Z Johnson 16/1; 2011: Toms 33/1; 2010: Z Johnson 50/1; 2009: Stricker 28/1. Average: 40/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Fort Worth is here. The weather picture looks mixed for the Dean & Deluca. A relatively soft course could be dampened further with thunderstorms possible on both Thursday and Friday. Storms look very blustery on Thursday, so expect higher scoring. Friday could potentially see a long suspension in play with thunderstorms looking set for the day. From Saturday onwards expect clear skies, high temperatures, a soft course and light winds. Perfect scoring conditions.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 6 winners of Dean & Deluca Invitational since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how Colonial has set up in the past and what specific skills it requires:
Jordan Spieth (2015): "I think it's going to be easier to hit fairways because one of the harder parts when this is firm and fast is holding the fairway. So it's going to be easier to hit fairways, but I think if you don't hit the fairway, I would imagine the rough's going to be very healthy. You're going to have to judge if it's going to come out fat or if it's going to come out as a flyer. And if you get above the hole around here, it doesn't matter if they're wet or not, they're going to be fast, and you're going to struggle. So it's still going to be a test. I think that, yes, I think that the scores, if it's moist, they'll be lower. I don't know about record‑setting, but doesn't really change much about the tournament, though. It doesn't make it a bomber's course. It doesn't make it favour I don't think any type of player. It's just going to be more of a premium on hitting fairway."
Adam Scott (2015): "But this is going to be a really good week to, you know, really play within myself. You can't be wild around this golf course. You have to really hit the fairway this week. There's a premium on that. The rough is up. It will be very hard to score well playing from off the fairway this week. So I think it's a good week for me to really, you know, kind of tone things down a little bit and be very patient, which is pretty much how I played last year and it worked well. Well, the course is in good ‑ it's not too soft at the moment. So it's in good shape. But ideally it would stay this way. When the course gets soft and quite soggy, it plays a lot easier for us because the ball doesn't run so far off line as fairways get wider, greens become bigger. So I would say scoring is better. And certainly around this course, when this gets firm, it presents challenges, because you can't bite off corners on holes that dogleg because the fairways are so narrow if the ball is running, and you have to be very precise into the greens when it's firm as well leaving it under the hole. It's the old style of golf that will prevail over 72 holes if you're fairly cautious and make few mistakes, you'll have a good score."
Boo Weekley (2014): "We just kind of broke the golf course down into places where we know that we can take advantage. If we hit it in the right spot, we can take advantage because we've got wedge in our hand or what I feel like 7‑iron down are scoring clubs. I feel like I can hit it inside 10 feet. So to me that's where I had to break it down the golf course to where if I hit it here, 3‑wood off this hole is going to leave me an 8‑iron or 7‑iron. If I can get aggressive it's feeling good, or if I hit driver, pitching wedge to gap wedge. I kept it in front of me. That to me I felt like I was driving the ball good the whole week. As long as I could just keep it in play and keep it out of that little bit of rough around here, you know, I felt like I could get it on the green somewhere and just two‑putt or make a putt coming in. I felt like every time I stand over it, if my mind's right, and I feel like I've got the right club, I felt like I could knock it in at any moment."
Matt Kuchar (2014): "It was interesting watching Brian Palmer go around last year, being a local guy that plays here quite a bit. When you feel like it's more your home course when you're playing just for fun, you're not playing out of irons, irons just aren't that much fun to hit off the tee. So Ryan is used to hitting driver off most tees. So hitting drivers off the tee, I flip‑flop every now and then between a driver, sometimes as a 3‑wood. Watching a local guy pull driver there, maybe there is something to it. I hit driver there a bit, but that being said, my drive is a little different than some of the longer guys than some of the longer guys. But my driving accuracy is pretty strong. I think that's a strength of mine. I try to use those strengths on certain holes where I can take an advantage. Maybe 9, if I'm feeling good with the driver to make that into a birdie hole and try to turn what a lot of times to get a par and get out of there into a legitimate shot at making birdie."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 6 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
For the record, here's the breakdown of pure Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Colonial has a habit of producing shorter priced winners. Chris Kirk delivered at 35/1 12 months ago, Adam Scott was 18/1 in 2014, 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 with only World Number 1 (at the time) Adam Scott winning here with less than 4 tournament appearances prior. But as I mentioned earlier, both short-game specialists or grinding ball-strikers can get the job done on this classical test where scoring is generally mid-teens or higher. Look for strong wedge players and consistent long iron players.
My selections are as follows:
Matt Kuchar headlines this week and although we'd all like a bigger price, Kuchar is always the sort who can be easily marked by the layers on the basis that he builds up to his wins so obviously in advance. 3 consecutive top-5s were needed before he won at Harbour Town in 2014, 2nd here at Colonial preceded his win at Muirfield Village in 2013, 5 top-13 finishes in 6 prior appearances paved the way for his Players Championship triumph in 2012, with 3 top-10s in 4 appearances (6 in 8 prior) arriving before he won at Ridgewood in 2010. Bookmakers weren't so aware back in 2010/12 when Kooch went off at 40/1 and 55/1 at The Barclays and Players, but his last 2 wins have been at 22/1 and 18/1 respectively. Naturally 14/1 isn't great about a guy who hasn't won in 2 years, but Zach Johnson won here in 2012 coming off a similarly strong form line (2nd at TPC Sawgrass, 2nd at Harbour Town) and another 2 year spell without a win...he was priced at 16/1.
Kuchar loves the track and freely admitted in 2014 that Colonial "ranks high on the list of my tournaments I'd like to win". Asked in the same interview about his strengths as a player Matt stated, "I think I try to play to those strengths, and those strengths tend to be my driver and my wedge game. I think I've got a wedge in my hand and I feel like I've got a real shot at making birdie." Perfect attributes for Colonial, as are 18th in Bogey Avoidance, 23rd in par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion, 56th in Proximity to Hole, and 60th in putts from >25 feet which you will find in Matt's PGA Tour season stats. Kuchar plays well on classical courses where scoring is difficult and his last 4 wins have come at -11/273, -12/276, -13/275 and -12/272. Extra motivation will come from the fact that he finds himself outside of the 9 automatic spots for Ryder Cup qualification, but with Colonial and Muirfield next on the agenda he can look to cement a spot in the next 2 weeks. However with Day, McIlroy and Spieth playing Jack's tournament next week, this looks far more winnable for the 37 year-old.
If we look at player strengths, Bill Haas is a strong ball-striker who plays well on technical and classical golf courses. He hits plenty of fairways (38th on Tour), plenty of greens (37th), avoids bogeys (15th Bogey Avoidance) is equally adept on Bermudagrass or Bentgrass greens and when the putter clicks - it tends to be fairly indiscriminate - he fires into life. Take the Valspar Championship in March where after a MC (Riviera) and 69th (Doral) he popped up with a massive performance and should have won in regulation play, before being beaten by the fast charging Charl Schwartzel in a play-off. Well I think Colonial is an excellent fit and, like plenty of previous winners here, Bill has all of the skill-sets needed to win here in Fort Worth but as yet they haven't all clicked in the same week. In 2010 he'd broken his Tour maiden at PGA West in January - Haas shot 65-68-64 to go into the final round 3 shots off the lead and 2 behind eventual winner Zach Johnson. A year later he returned with immediate form of 4th at Quail Hollow and MC at TPC Sawgrass to shoot 67-67 across the opening 36 holes and remained in the top-10, finishing 8th behind David Toms.
Haas operates at the higher echelons of leaderboards when his confidence is buoyed by tip-top greens in regulation numbers so 4th and 8th for greens hit across Harbour Town and TPC Sawgrass tick those boxes and Haas showed with a fast start in soft conditions at The Players that his game is close. Multiple wins at PGA West (2010 & 2015), a win at East Lake (2011) and Congressional (2013) link in well to Colonial and Haas, like Kuchar, needs to get results for Ryder Cup purposes.
Boo Weekley won here in 2014 and arrives in Fort Worth this year with his game sharpening nicely. I know that 41st at TPC Four Seasons last week hardly shouts winner, but Weekley started with a terrible opening 76 then fired a cracking 62 to make the cut on the number. A closing 65 will have boosted confidence further and Weekley made 20 birdies on the week (tied 6th), 19 of them across his closing 54 holes. That followed on from 19 birdies (tied 11th) that he made at TPC Sawgrass where Weekley sat 6th after 36 holes, eventually finishing 16th. As you'd expect Weekley is striking the ball well at the moment - he sits 15th and 6th in our rolling 10-week stats for Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation - but most interestingly Boo has started to make a few putts with positive Strokes Gained Putting performances across both Quail Hollow and TPC Four Seasons. Indeed he ranked 15th in Putting Average last week - a performance which is his best in this category relative to the field since St Jude/Colonial 2013. He won the latter. It's clear that in Texas he performs well on Bentgrass par-70s - he finished 5th in the 2014 Byron Nelson to add to his excellent Colonial record - and he's a southern state specialist with all of his 3 wins, plus the vast majority of his top-10s, coming in the south of the United States.
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