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Congratulations to Aaron Wise backers at Trinity Forest. Available at anything up to 50/1 (with Unibet) pre-tournament, I’m sure there were plenty of you who were on board the talented and extremely mature 21 year-old. The conveyor belt of young talent is exceptional in these modern golf times. We pretty much covered the week with Branden Grace each-way at 25/1 – the South African finished like an express train and but for a costly Saturday double bogey at the 15th, he would have been more of a threat. Trinity Forest was a breath of fresh air as a host course and when the wind gets up in future renewals it will certainly offer up a stern test.
Congratulations also goes out to our European Tour expert Paul Williams, who landed another winner in the form of Adrian Otaegui at 33/1 at the Belgian Knockout. No mean feat that at a new tournament, on a new course to the European Tour and with a never seen before tournament format!
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 4,500 square feet. Birdies are hard to come by at Colonial with the 2 par-5s amongst the toughest on Tour to birdie or better. As we approach the close of May, after months of Bermudagrass greens it’s fantastic to see a tournament played on Bentgrass greens this week. Naturally now as we move towards summer, Bentgrass putting surfaces will be more regularly seen on the Tour.
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, 4,500 sq.ft average; Tournament Stimp: 12ft; 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. 2017: 71.15 (+1.15), Difficulty Rank 7 of 50 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Colonial Country Club and how they compare to recent courses 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.
As with most classical courses, there’s no particular right or wrong game-shape which dominates the champion list. Short game specialists (Kevin Kisner, 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. Kevin Kisner played some lovely, balanced, plotting golf – 1st Driving Accuracy, 2nd Greens in Regulation, 2nd Scrambling, 3rd Strokes Gained Putting – when he won this 12 months ago on a firm course with gusting 25 mph to 30 mph winds a feature. Jordan Spieth (2016) and Chris Kirk (2015) were wayward off the tee and scrambled and putted their way to victory; prior to that Adam Scott (2014) and Boo Weekley (2013) 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 6th, 15th, 14th and 13th toughest in Birdie Average across the past 4 renewals. Only 2 par-5s, namely the 1st and the 11th, ranked 13th toughest on Tour for Birdie or Better in 2017, so look for players who are comfortable to score on both par-3s and par-4s.
Colonial really plays as difficult as turf and wind conditions dictate. 12 months ago, Kisner made only 16 birdies, but with a field-best 4 bogeys and a double bogey, he outlasted the freer scoring O’Hair, Rahm and Spieth. But an 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.
Conditions-wise, wind shouldn’t be a factor this week, with nothing over 12 mph forecast across the 4 days of play. So it’s rather straightforward on that front, but the real intrigue for the PGA Tour and Course Superintendent Scott Ebers will be the intense temperatures that Fort Worth will see this week. Highs of 34 degrees Celsius (Thursday), 35 (Friday) and 38 (on the weekend) are intense. Unchecked the course would soon become firm and fast, especially the Bentgrass greens. So for me, I think they will be forced to water at the very least the green complexes throughout the tournament. No wind, watered greens and fast fairways are could mean very low scoring here.
Winners: 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10); 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).
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 10 of my published predictor are Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee and Jon Rahm.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2017: Kisner 33/1; 2016: Spieth 7/1; 2015: Kirk 35/1; 2014: Scott 18/1; 2013: Weekley 100/1; 2012: Z Johnson 16/1; 2011: Toms33/1; 2010: Z Johnson 50/1. Average: 20/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 23/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Forth Worth, Texas, is here: The firmness, or lack of, at TPC Sawgrass has been a talking point on the PGA Tour for a number of weeks. We saw firm conditions at Quail Hollow; soft conditions throughout as the course was watered at TPC Sawgrass; and last week a mixture at the Trinity Forest faux-links, so it will be interesting to see what happens this week at Colonial. Sweltering conditions approaching 38 degrees Celsius have not been seen at his tournament for a number of years. Expect course watering, but to what extent we don’t know. Greens most certainly will need moisture applied across the 4 days of competition I’d assume. No meaningful wind is forecast.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners of this event since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
Let’s take a view from players as to how Colonial sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Kevin Kisner (2017): “Played nicely coming down the fairway, which you got to do around here. I’ve played really conservative on the pins I didn’t like. I just love the golf course. I feel super comfortable. I know the pins I wants to go after and the pins I don’t. It’s just like what I grew up on, so that’s why I love it. Most important thing about playing well around here is getting the ball in the fairway, because you just can’t get to the small greens out of the rough. You get so blocked out with the trees if you’re in the rough that you hit so many run-up shots you’re just not going to hit the greens with. Probably hit 11, 12 fairways both days. You’re going to hit some short irons. If you hit the green, you don’t have more than about a 25-footer for birdie.“
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 8 Colonial winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Colonial has a habit of producing shorter-priced winners. Kevin Kisner won at 33/1 last term whilst Jordan Spieth was the 7/1 favourite in 2015. 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 3 tournament appearances prior. But as with many a classical golf course, both short-game specialists or grinding ball-strikers can get the job done at Colonial Country club, where scoring is generally mid-teens under par unless the wind really blows. With little Texas wind forecast and with temperatures up to 38 degrees Celsius forecast, I think the course will have to be watered at various stages this week. As we know the PGA Tour professionals can score when conditions allow, especially when wind is not factor, so I can see mid-teens being the winning target this week.
As well as experience, previous top 10 finishes again seems almost necessity. Again World Number 1 (at the time) Adam Scott won here with nothing better than 64th and 65th in 2 previous appearances. But that is undoubtedly the outlying form guide, as Kisner (5th and 10th), Kirk (5th), Weekley (9th), Zach Johnson (1st, 4th, 9th) and Toms (2nd, 3rd, 4th) all had top 10 results here before triumphing since 2011.
My selections are as follows:
Jon Rahm 2.5pts EW 14/1 with Coral
You have to say that it’s a quality field this week at Colonial Country Club. The appeal of this classical golf course, despite a tournament purse some $600,000 down on last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, has attracted a number of top players to Fort Worth, Texas and quite rightly so. Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler head the market, supported by Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise and Patrick Cantlay. Naturally you could make cases for most of these, but with Spieth still struggling with the putter, Rose a non-attendee here for the past 8 years, Simpson arriving here from his emotional Players Championship win and Rickie Fowler adding Colonial to his schedule for the first time in 4 years, I have my doubts with 4 of the top 5. So I’m siding with Spanish World Number 4 Jon Rahm to have another excellent week here after he finished runner-up to Kevin Kisner 12 months ago on course debut.
At the time we were surprised that Rahm went so well on this short, classical course, but he explained during the tournament that he loved the course, especially when compared to the claustrophobic Stadium Course, where he’d last played. “It’s an old school golf course, and usually I like those. We have quite a few of those back in Spain. I feel comfortable, even if I drive it like I did today. I try to use it as much as possible, and rarely found myself out of the fairway. When I did, it was on the right side of the rough so I had a good chance to hit a good shot.” Rahm said after Round 1. He went onto say, “The original courses like this one where you’re not supposed to, you know, a lot of them are fade holes and it’s suits my eye perfectly, so I’m able to take over corners like I tried to do on 18, like I did on 1, 2, 3. Even if I went through the fairway.” His liking for classical golf courses becomes very apparent to me with the fact that despite only being on the Tour as a professional for 23 months, he ranks 5th in this field when it comes to results gleaned from classical, old-school golf courses in this week’s predictor model.
3rd at Congressional and 2nd at Glen Abbey in 2016 were soon backed-up by his maiden PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines in January 2017. From there 5th at Pebble Beach, 3rd at Club de Golf Chapultepec, 2nd here at Colonial, 3rd at Glen Oaks and 7th at East Lake followed, not forgetting Rahm’s Irish Open triumph on the Strand Course links at Portstewart GC in July. 4th at Augusta followed this year for his first Major Championship top-5 finish. 5 main Tour victories in 16 months is seriously impressive and across Torrey Pines, PGA West, Portstewart, the Earth Course and Centro Nacional de Golf he has shown serious versatility. If greens are watered to any significant level this week, that will only play to Jon’s strengths and with Justin Thomas safely ensconced in the World Number 1 spot whatever anybody does this week, I think Rahm will be mentally free to play really well on what is his last appearance before the U.S. Open. RESULT: T5
Jason Dufner 1.5pts EW 33/1 with Coral
Jason Dufner has pretty much the perfect profile for the Colonial test this week. A PGA Tour veteran who captured the 2013 PGA Championship at the tight, tree-lined Oak Hill along with a further 4 PGA Tour victories, Dufner tends to come alive on shorter courses. A winner as recently as The Memorial Tournament 51 weeks ago, Jason has always liked classical golf courses and his record both here and across the other regular PGA Tour Par-70 stop off which featured Bermudagrass fairways & Bentgrass greens (until this year), just down the road at TPC Four Seasons in Dallas, is first class: 2011: 8th TPC Four Seasons; 2012: 1st TPC Four Seasons, 2nd Colonial; 2014: 2nd Colonial; 2015: 8th TPC Four Seasons; 2016: 6th Colonial.
Jason, like many other professionals, tends to go through peaks and troughs and 2018 has been no different. 4th after 54 holes at Kapalua turned into 11th, which was then followed by 18th at Waialae and 17th at PGA National. A sudden-death play off defeat to Louis Oosthuizen after wins over Jason Day and James Hahn at the Dell World Match Play in April was no disgrace, but Dufner’s season was ignited at the Zurich Classic where he finished 2nd in partnership with Pat Perez. 42nd at Quail Hollow featured an opening round -4/67 and then Jason played brilliantly over the weekend at The Players. 46th going into Saturday rounds of -6/66 (Saturday) and -4/68 (on Sunday when partnered in the 2nd last group with Dustin Johnson) were mighty impressive. Yes Jason had putting problems across the 16th, 17th and 18th greens which ultimately cost him a 2nd place position, but his Twitter comments afterwards actually highlight the fact that he putted the lights out for most of the tournament, finishing 3rd for Strokes Gained Putting in tandem with hitting 28/36 greens across the weekend. Dufner has always been a resolute sort and will likely be motivated to play well again this week at a Colonial course he describes as, “I think it’s a great golf course. It’s challenging. I feel like if I have my good stuff, if my game is in order, I can shoot some good scores and be competitive on this golf course.“ RESULT: MC
Zach Johnson 1.5pts EW 50/1 with Coral
It’s easy to lose patience in golf betting with players. I backed Webb Simpson at Quail Hollow – he wins the next week at The Players Championship. I backed Billy Horschel at TPC San Antonio – he wins the next week at the Zurich Classic – it happens! I really liked Zach Johnson for The Players at 80/1 but it never happened for the 2-time Major Champion and 12-time PGA Tour winner. Despite navigating around TPC Sawgrass very nicely, the putter was stone cold. But as Kevin Kisner showed here 12 months ago, putts often start to fall on courses where players get positive vibes and understand the green complexes and there will not be many players who know the greens here better than Zach Johnson. 9th here in 2009, 1st in 2010, 4th in 2011, 1st in 2012 and 3rd here in 2013 – that’s an amazing run of results here in Fort Worth. Since then 19th in 2015 and 17th in 2016 seem rather pedestrian, but this could well be the case of right course at the very right time for the 2015 Open Champion. Pre-Players where he played 54 holes, Johnson’s progress had been good. 15th with near-neighbour Jonathan Byrd at the Zurich Classic team event, Johnson played some fantastic stuff at TPC San Antonio when he was the 36 and 54-hole leader. Statistically he’s the perfect fit this season for Colonial especially as he sits 19th in par-4 Birdie or Better, 18th in Strokes Gained Approach, 23rd in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 1st in Proximity to Hole PGA Tour skill categories. RESULT: MC
Danny Lee 1pt EW 90/1 with Paddy Power
Finally I think the test this week at Colonial could fall into the wheelhouse of Danny Lee. Lee has always been far more confident in receptive conditions and he’s always been happier on Bentgrass-based greens, so this week could work very nicely for him if the PGA Tour see fit that the course will need to be watered to combat the very hot temperatures. Lee has had a very slow 2017/18 season and has been working closely with both new swing and short game coaches in the form of George Gankas and Jeff Pierce. And with his PGA Tour card in danger, results have started to come. 8th and 9th after 36 and 54 holes at Harbour Town showed promise, before a final round 79 dropped him to 55th. But that was almost expected as Lee had not be in contention since the CIMB Classic 6 months ago. 51st followed at TPC San Antonio, which never played to his strengths, but it was at TPC Sawgrass where the game finally ‘clicked’. On a soft, receptive golf course, the likes we haven’t seen at TPC Sawgrass for a while, Lee shot 68-66-70 to be second to Webb Simpson after 54 holes. He held on far better and landed a healthy 7th place finish. But at 123rd in the FedEx Cup and with his 2-year exemption from his 2015 Greenbrier Classic victory long-gone, Danny needs to keep pushing hard if he wants to have full playing privileges for season 2018/19.
As a former OWGR top 50 and Presidents Cup player Danny Lee has the ability to contend in big tournaments, so I fancy his chances at Colonial this week. One thing worth noting with Danny is both back in 2015 and 2017, when he finds form it can stick. In 2015, 10th at Colonial and 25th at TPC River Highlands preceded his victory at Old White TPC and from there he finished 3rd at Deere Run, 4th RTJ and 6th at Firestone South. 12 months ago we saw Lee finish 5th at TPC Four Seasons and then 6th here at Colonial, where he led after 36 holes and was 2nd after 54 holes. After shooting -6/66 on Friday at Sawgrass Danny commented that, “I was hitting it really good all day today, just wasn’t able to make a lot of birdies on the front nine and it seems like on the back nine something clicked, obviously, and started making a lot of putts and hitting a lot of good shots out there. I always have been trying to hit one stock shot out there and it’s really hard to score it that way, especially out here on this course, you got to be able to hit a lot of different shots, fades, draws off the tee, and even from middle of the fairway it looks like a straightforward shot, but you got to actually be able to make a little fade shot or draw shot out there. It seems like that’s working great for me at the moment and everything’s going smoothly at the moment.” 15th in Strokes Gained Approach and 8th in Strokes Gained Putting at Sawgrass, hopefully Lee will continue in the same direction this week at a nice price. RESULT: T14
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