On the heels of the theatrical playoff ending at TPC Sawgrass, golf fans are hoping for yet another riveting tournament this week in Fort Worth, Texas. The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial is a storied event tracing its history back to 1946, making it the 10th oldest tournament on the PGA Tour. The Colonial Country Club has been the host the entire time; only the Augusta National Golf Club has been the site of a PGA Tour event for more consecutive years.
As will often be recited this week, hometown son Ben Hogan won the first two Colonial Invitationals on his way to five titles overall, making it truly “Hogan’s Alley.”
In 2010 Zach Johnson did his best to channel the spirit of Mr. Hogan with an incredible run on the back nine on Sunday to add another cherished title to his PGA Tour resume.
On his way to the 72 hole tournament record of 21 under par (65-66-64-64-259) Johnson lit up the back nine with birdie putts of 10, 21, 22, 24 and 14 feet on holes 10, 12, 13, 15 and 17. That rushed Johnson passed eventual runner-up Brian Davis who could not keep pace and finished three strokes back of Johnson. Johnson broke Kenny Perry’s tournament record of 19 under par, 261, which Perry shot in both his victories in 2003 and 2005. The four round score of 259 was also a personal best for Johnson, bettering the 261 he shot in winning the 2008 Valero Texas Open.
Not only did Johnson make a lot of putts in his victory he also led the field in hitting greens in regulation, something every player must do to succeed on an often claustrophobic Colonial layout. The tree-lined holes are punctuated by the “Horrible Horseshoe”, holes 3-5. These are the three most difficult holes on the courses with 3 and 5 being par fours that play more than 480 yards each and the par three, 3rd hole, stretching to nearly 250 yards.
There are 12 past Colonial Champions in the field this week. Joining Johnson is Rory Sabbatini, Tim Herron, Kenny Perry,
Sergio Garcia, Olin Browne, David Frost, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, Fulton Allem, Keith Clearwater, and Tom Purtzer.
Both Johnson and Garcia are coming off fine Sunday finishes at Sawgrass where each tied for 12th place. Johnson closed with a 66 while the Spaniard posted a 65, one of his best rounds in some time. Expect both to carry that confidence into this week. Great ball strikers usually perform well at Colonial and each is well within that category. Johnson might even be a good choice as a repeat victor at Colonial, a feat that is rare indeed. Although Sergio’s record has been spotty in this event the last few times he played (he has not been back since 2005) he did win it in 2001 so he knows how to be successful on the tricky 7204-yard, par 70 design.
I’m going to give the nod to Hunter Mahan as the possible champion this week. Mahan is coming off his 6th top ten of the year with a tie for 6th at THE PLAYERS and is hungry for a win in 2011 that has eluded him so far. The combination of him leading the PGA Tour in birdies and being 10th in greens hit in regulation are just too good to pass on when you consider the test the field faces along the Trinity River.
If you want a good indicator of why will wear the Scottish Royal Tartan Plaid Jacket on Sunday then look to the leader after three rounds. In the 63-year history of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, the 54-hole leader/co-leader has gone on to claim victory 34 times.
2011 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial
Dates: May 16-22, 2011
Where: Colonial Country Club; Fort Worth, TX
Defending Champion: Zach Johnson
Purse: $6,200,000; Winner’s Share: $1,116,000; Format: 72-hole stroke play