Colonial Country Club, proud home of the Crowne Plaza Invitational, used to be a ballstriker’s dream – plenty of doglegs to navigate, fairways were at a premium, and short-siding greens was a half-stroke penalty. But in today’s game, guys are flying the Ft. Worth doglegs and often find themselves with short irons into greens that Ben Hogan once hit 4-irons into. So it’s become a wedge-and-putting contest, with names like Zach Johnson, David Toms, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson winning five of the last six events. So what does the Tour do to keep it tough? Harden the greens and make the bermuda rough around them a little knarlier.
That's not to say driving accuracy and precision aren't valuable here anymore -- they certainly are. Guys can stay near the leaders just by hitting fairways and greens. But the contenders, and those who will eventualy separate themselves from the pack, will be on their short games here. Everyone is going to miss some greens.
The guys I'm circling this week have a good course history, are playing well recently and/or have great short games. Let's get onto the picks, leading off with my top five favorites in the field:
1a. Matt Kuchar. The numbers are starting to pile up for Kuch. He’s missed a total of six cuts since January 2010. Six! That spans 108 events, during which he’s amassed 46 top 10’s. Sure, we’d all like for him to win more, but there’s no safer bet to cash a big check in an event any given week. And he’s playing the most consistent golf of his life right now: 9 top-10’s in 13 events so far in 2013-14. Oh yeah, he came in 2nd here last year, just ahead of...
1b. Zach Johnson. Third here last year, with an eerily similar trends of his finishes leading up to the event. He also won this event in 2012 and 2010 and finished 4th in 2011. The last time he finished outside of the top 10 here, Jordan Spieth was in 6th grade. So yeah, I think Colonial fits his game pretty well.
3. Jordan Spieth. His Metroplex/Home Tour continues this week, and he’s coming to a course that better suits his game in Colonial compared to TPC Four Seasons. He can work the ball both ways, but his preferred draw should find a happy home in Ft. Worth. Plus his short game is top drawer. A T7 last year supports that notion. I have a feeling he's going to perform well this week, as it's hard to keep this kid down for more than an event or two.
4. Jim Furyk. Leads the Tour in Scrambling while ranking 103rd in Strokes Gained Putting and T104 in One-Putt %. That means he always gets up and down and misses a huge percentage of his birdie attempts. That’s difficult to do, which means it’s only a matter of time before more of those birdie putts start to drop. Despite this, his worst finish over the last five events is a T14 at The Masters, he’s coming off back-to-back second-place finishes and has the longest running par-or-better-rounds streak (12) going on Tour. He finished 4th at Colonial as recently as 2012.
5. Adam Scott. His game is off right now, but it’s still better than 75% of the field. I guess that's why he's No. 1 in the world (officially) now. His last entry at Colonial was 2011 (T65). I wouldn’t touch him this week as he tries to round back into form, but he should be in the mix.
Now we get to the non-chalk guys in the field:
6. Brian Stuard. Has missed three of his last five cuts, but in between has a T5 and T17. Also hasn’t three-putted in an amazing 216 holes, or three events, and ranks 53rd in Proximity to the Hole on the year but only ranks 60th in SGP -- which tells me he’s burning a lot of edges, not that he’s just a good lag putter. In his debut here last year he finished T22; with the current trend of first-time winners this season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Stuard claim a victory.
7. Rory Sabbatini. The 2007 Colonial winner’s name has popped up on leaderboards several times in recent weeks, and he plays well in at least one Texas event each year.
8. Matt Every. He’s certainly cooled off since his win – a T12 sandwiched between two missed cuts and a WD – but Every still ranks first on Tour in Strokes Gained Putting (.930) and in the top 20 in several key scoring categories. He was coming off a tepid run of golf last year before finishing T4 at Colonial.
9. Boo Weekley. Boo likes to win an event back-to-back (see: Harbour Town), and he's the defending champ here. He’s coming off a T5 at the Byron Nelson. But his putting and scrambling stats would make Gary Woodland blush, they’re that bad. But think of it this way: when Boo putts like an average Tour player – as he did last week at the Nelson (73rd in SGP, 55th in Putts Per GIR) – he finishes in the top 10. Colonial's greens aren’t wildly undulating, they’re just smallish – which fits the game of the man who currently sits fourth in GIR%.
10. Kevin Chappell. For a guy who usually misses a ton of cuts and get one or two high finishes every year, KC has been fairly consistent in 2013-14, making 12 of 16 cuts. And he’s trending correctly, being on the fringe of contention each of his last three events with only one round holding him back each time. But what I like is that his Achilles Heel – putting – is starting to come around. Despite ranking 150th or worse in SGP each of the last three years, he’s ranked in the top-third of the field in putting over those last three events, peaking with a 9th at the PLAYERS in his last start. He has the length and iron game to do what’s needed around Colonial, so if that putter continues to perform he should be in the mix again.
Players to avoid: Jason Dufner. He could snap out of his funk at any time, and always has the last three years. He also finished 2nd here two years ago. But I’d wait to see him post a top 10 before playing him – he runs hot for a month at a time, so I doubt you’ll miss the window to get a big check out of him. He’s currently 185th in Strokes Gained Putting and 164th in Scrambling, too. Also, this is Dustin Johnson’s first trip to Colonial and while he should perform well, I’m saving him for another week.
- I really like Paul Casey this week as well, but here are the issues: Casey, while playing great lately, could shoot 80 at your local Muni course… or 58. He's like Julianna Hough. Lovely to look at, but what happens when you take her out to that big Halloween party and she dresses in blackface? Not fun.
- John Senden frightens me at this point. Sendo's playing the most consistently good golf of his career, mainly due to his hot putter (currently 31st in SGP). Despite his solid course history here, I just can't get over the 'gig is up' feeling I get. He's finished 92nd or worse in SGP four of the last five years! It would be like Tim Clark suddenly being in the top 10 in driving distance. I'm worried he'll fail a Beta Blockers test or something.
- Brandt Snedeker is one to avoid until he shows he can get both his ball striking and putting back on track.
- Jimmy Walker might be the first Tour pro to cause an accident on I-20 from a stray drive. He currently ranks 200th in driving accuracy, which basically puts him a few spots behind Charles Barkley. Not a great stat this week.
- I'm always a fan of Bill Haas on traditional courses such as Colonial. Plus he seems destined to wear a plaid jacket.
- John Huh has been playing some solid golf of late and has a nice little course history at Colonial.
- Hunter Mahan… seems to be battling through injury, but the results aren't there.
Crazy Fact About Ft. Worth: Rapper 'Big Lurch' is from Ft. Worth. He was once convicted of killing and eating his girlfriend. Kids, don't do PCP.
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