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We finish the Texas swing this week with our annual trip to Colonial CC for the 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 defending champion Jordan Spieth, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Paul Casey.
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 122-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 7,209 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-5s 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/Maxwell 1936; Course Type: Classical; Par: 70; Length: 7,209 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. 2016: 70.20 (+0.20), Difficulty Rank 18 of 50 courses.
Colonial Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Colonial Country Club and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on the PGA 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 both Jordan Spieth's and Chris Kirk's victories here across the past 2 renewals. Both only hit 50% of fairways but from there miraculous scrambling and red-hot putters across both players delivered a new way of conquering Colonial. 1 eagle (a rarity here) and 21 birdies for Kirk and 22 birdies for Spieth highlights that Colonial, if conditions allow, can yield birdies for streaky putters who are in hot form on the Bentgrass 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 (Jordan Spieth, Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson) and ball-strikers (Adam Scott and Boo Weekley) have an equal chance of victory on this classical Colonial layout. Jordan Spieth and Chris Kirk scrambled and putted their way to victory; prior to that 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 if the wind blows - Colonial ranked 15th, 14th and 13th toughest in Birdie Average across the past 3 renewals. Only 2 par-5s, namely the 1st and the 11th, ranked 12th toughest on Tour for Birdie or Better in 2016, so look for players who are comfortable to score on both par-3s and par-4s.
Winners: 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17); 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 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.
New for this week we've also published a combined current form/tournament form stats page which you can find here.
Published Predictor Model: Our published 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 Jordan Spieth (No.1), Jason Dufner, Pat Perez, Chris Kirk and Paul Casey.
DraftKings Predictor Model: For those of you who play DraftKings there's now a dedicated predictor model available here.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2016: Spieth 7/1; 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. Average: 37/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Fort Worth, Texas is here. Around 25mm of rain since last Wednesday will mean that Colonial will look particularly lush as the field assembles. However I'm expecting pretty firm conditions underfoot and beware that the wind is going to make this a real grind for the opening 54 holes. I'm not expecting any -17/263 scoring feats this time around at the Dean & DeLuca with any player breaking into double figures under par by Sunday well in the hunt I think.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 7 winners of this event 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:
Chris Kirk (2016): "I've played well here over the years, but I don't think people would consider me an elite ball striker or shot maker necessarily. It's been a course that's suited guys who hit the ball right to left over the years, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry, Stricker, some other guys like that, and I definitely fit in that category. I think that I've always been a very good iron player. I may not have driven the ball as well as some guys over the years, but I've always been a very good, solid iron player and control my distance really well and usually play well in the wind, and if you pair that with making a putt here or there, that usually does well around here.
The course appeals to more of a feel player. If you can kind of flight your shots and work the ball with the wind here and there, you're going to have a big advantage out here because there's a ton of cross-winds that you play in on this course. You'll get a lot of off the left and a little in or maybe a little help. It's just a lot of sort of calculating exactly what that wind is doing on those iron shots, and you have to be very precise with how small the greens are here. So yeah, I would think that a feel player and being able to judge those distances and judge that wind just right is crucial here."
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 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 Ryan 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. 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 7 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Colonial has a habit of producing shorter priced winners. Jordan Spieth was the 7/1 favourite 12 months ago. Chris Kirk delivered at 35/1 in 2015, whilst 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. With some challenging wind in play this week, scores may well take a turn for the worse, so I see scoring being slightly higher. Look for technical grinders and consistent long iron players.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
The top of the betting market highlights no outstanding favourite with defending champion Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm pretty much co-favourites. I can easily pass over Spieth who's never defended a title successfully and who seems to be struggling with confidence and the putter right now. 'Rahmbo' for me is a future World Number 1 who in all likelihood can win on any course, however 12/1 on a specialised track where experience pays like Colonial holds little appeal.
Jason Dufner will be well-backed this week and is the first up for me. Tough, windy conditions will play to his strengths, as will fast conditions if they come into play. 2nd here in a particularly windy renewal back in 2014, Dufner has been hanging around leaderboards all season with 5th at TPC Louisiana being backed up with 5 top-14 finishes across PGA National, Copperhead, GC of Houston, Harbour Town and last week at TPC Four Seasons. A short course specialist whose record at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - winner at the classical and claustrophobic Oak Hill in 2013 - tells you all you need to know about his appropriateness for the challenge this week.
Dufner sits in the top 10 across both my Greens in Regulation and Putting Average rolling 10-week tracker and Jason has a stellar record here at this old-style classical venue with 2nd in 2012 and 6th last year in addition to the aforementioned 2014 runner-up spot. 35th in Strokes Gained Putting and 22nd in Scoring Average for the season, the Alabama man is playing some great stuff in 2017 and the 4-time PGA Tour winner looks set to challenge this week. RESULT: MC
With 4 top-10 finishes at Colonial across his career and an immediate form line which includes 22nd at The Players, 2nd at Wells Fargo and 18th at The Masters, Pat Perez at 40/1 seems a fair enough price to me. A winner as recently as November, the 41 year-old has had a renaissance of his career this season with his win at El Camaleon being backed up by 3rd place at Kapalua, 4th at Torrey Pines and a very strong 2nd at Eagle Point 3 weeks ago. A couple of big tournaments in there and I've been very impressed with Pat's play in tough conditions over recent weeks. Eagle Point was a windy affair with technical level scoring where Perez excelled and the Scottsdale, Arizona resident also shot an impressive -7/65 in the 3rd Round at TPC Sawgrass when the wind was at its strongest. At a career high 40th in the OWGR, Perez has always been comfortable here at the classical Colonial with 4th in 2007, 6th in 2008, 10th in 2010, and 5th on his last outing here in 2015. He's also finished in the top 10 at every PGA Tour Texas venue which again highlights a player who performs well in windy conditions. Seems a horse for the course who enters this week in excellent nick. RESULT: MC
Now I know that the standard winner at Colonial has course experience and preferably a previous top-10 finish here in their back pocket, but course debutants such as Paul Casey, Harris English, John Huh and Bryce Molder have all finished in the each-way spots in recent years. Encouragement for Jon Rahm backers, but I also think Billy Horschel is well worth consideration. Yes he has no course experience, but top-level results at correlating courses such as GC of Houston (2nd 2013), TPC San Antonio (3rd 2013 & 2015, 4th 2016), TPC Southwind (10th 2013, 6th 2014, 8th 2015), TPC Boston (2nd 2014), East Lake (7th 2013, 1st 2014) and Sea Island (2nd 2016) highlight a player who'll find the technical test at Colonial this week right up his street.
Naturally his win at TPC Four Seasons adds more credence from a correlating course perspective to his selection on the basis that previous winners here Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Boo Weekley and David Toms all have top-5 finishes in nearby Irving. But I also like Billy this week because he's shown a couple of times in his relatively short PGA Tour career that when the putter is hot he strings together consecutive top-level performances. Back in 2013 he went 2(GC of Houston)-9(Harbour Town)-3(TPC San Antonio)-1(TPC Louisiana) before adding 10th at TPC Southwind and 4th at the Merion-hosted U.S. Open. Plus of course we all remember 2015 when he should have won at TPC Boston and then got the job done with consecutive wins at Cherry Hills (66/1) and East Lake (22/1) to win the FedEx Cup. Horschel is one to follow when hot and Win/Win scenarios of late have become a fairly regular occurrence. RESULT: T34
Kyle Stanley is another I like this week. 27th here when playing as a web.com Tour player back in 2010 on course debut, he was 18th after 54 holes before a late Sunday pairing with K.J. Choi saw him shoot a final round 70. At that point Stanley was learning his trade, but the same cannot be said now for the upwardly mobile World Number 110 (up 148 spots). Kyle is a high quality ball-striker (perfect for windy conditions) who has 3 top-8 finishes across the season, but most remember him for his 2012 final hole capitulation at Torrey Pines where he literally gifted the tournament to Brandt Snedeker. Less though remember that the following week he went to TPC Scottsdale as a 66/1 shot and won his maiden Tour title, projecting himself into the OWGR top 50 in the process. Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since then, but Stanley has always been one to follow when confidence is high, especially with the putter. 13th in Par 4 Scoring Average, 5th in Proximity to Hole and 5th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green highlight exactly what you get with the Clemson University product who played so well at The Players Championship where he landed a career best 4th spot and led after 54 holes. He was 9th for Putting Average at TPC Sawgrass and played beautifully in windy, technical conditions for much of the tournament. A confident Kyle Stanley is a player to watch and if the flat stick stays hot I can see him being a feature again this week on Bentgrass greens he prefers. RESULT: MC
Chris Kirk popped up with 12th at The Players Championship after months of obscurity and we all know that Georgia-based Kirk loves Colonial. 16th (2011), 5th (2012), 14th (2014), 1st (2015) and 15th (2016) highlights a player who enjoys this classical set-up and 66/1 with Betfred seems a little out of kilter for a player who's a 40/1 shot with plenty of other bookmakers. Kirk has been putting well enough - 47th Strokes Gained Putting - this season and sits inside our Putting Average 10-week tracker top 13, so it was interesting to see that his TPC Sawgrass performance a fortnight ago was driven by a great all-round showing. 6th for Ball Striking, 5th for Greens in Regulation and 5th for Putting Average generated Kirk's best ever finish at TPC Sawgrass and he also shot a -3/69 in the windiest conditions on Saturday. As we know with Chris, he often pops up with a win from very little (he has 4 PGA Tour wins) and Colonial has thrown up plenty of double winners over recent times including Kenny Perry (2003 & 2005) and Zach Johnson (2010 & 2012). RESULT: T67
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