Thursday, May 24, 2018

PGA Tour Preview: Heading to Hogan’s Alley

By Kevin Krest

Last Week

On a windswept links-style golf course, 21-year-old Aaron Wise closed out his first PGA Tour win with a final round, bogey-free 6-under par 65, parring the last eight holes for a 3-stroke victory over Marc Leishman. Concerns about the new Trinity Hills venue never materialized, with players apparently embracing the course's unique design that resembles a British Open more than a normal American Tour stop.

In an interview with CBS's Amanda Balionis, club member Jordan Spieth expressed satisfaction regarding the reception the course received from his fellow Tour players. It was definitely refreshing to see the pros having to play more shots along the ground and being forced to judge distances in a different manner. It really demonstrated how good these players are week in and week out, adjusting seamlessly to different courses, grasses, and weather conditions.

Getting back to Wise, he just added his name to the growing list of talented young players that will seem to be around for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, will one hot week translate into a longer run of excellence for the former Oregon Duck? It's hard to say, but he appears to have a strong game and he didn't wilt under pressure on a different type of course.

This Week

Fort Worth Invitational
Fort Worth, Texas
Colonial Country Club - par 70
Defending Champion: Kevin Kisner - 10 under par 270

History

More than any other regular Tour event, the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club is all about history. The event began in 1946, with the legendary Ben Hogan winning the first two and four times in seven years. He added another victory in 1959 and Colonial has since been known as Hogan's alley. The tournament is currently the longest running PGA Tour event that has been held at the same course from its inception.

The list of winners looks more like an induction ceremony to the World Golf Hall of Fame, including Hogan, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Chandler Harper, Mike Souchak, Julius Boros, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Bruce Crampton, Bruce Devlin, Roberto De Vicenzo, Tommy Bolt, Doug Sanders, Dave Stockton, Gene Littler, Lee Trevino, Al Geiberger, Fuzzy Zoeller, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price, Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, and Jordan Spieth.

It's interesting that Tiger Woods does not count the Fort Worth Invitational among his 79 Tour victories. In 2003, at the height of her successful career, Annika Sorenstam played in the event and was able to hold her own against the men before missing the cut.

2018 Field

* Three of the top 10, nine of the top 20, and 27 of the top 50 in FedEx Cup points

* Four of the top 10, six of the top 20, 19 of the top 50, and 40 of the top 100 in the World Golf ranking

* Nineteen countries represented

* Thirteen colleges have three or more former players represented: Alabama (3), Arizona State (4), Arkansas (3), Clemson (3), Georgia (5), Georgia Tech (5), Oklahoma State (3), San Diego State (3), Texas (3), Texas A&M (3), UNLV (3), Washington (3), Yonsei (3)

* Oldest player: Keith Clearwater (58)

* Youngest Player: Joaquin Niemann (19)

* Major Champions (11): Jordan Spieth (3), Zach Johnson (2), Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk

* Total Tour Victories: 249 (Jim Furyk, 17)

* Total Major Victories: 14 (Jordan Spieth, 3)

What to Look For

Jordan Spieth is a native of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has finished second, first and second in the last three Fort Worth Invitationals. He says that his game is rounding into form, a scary thought if you're one of his fellow competitors. The field is much stronger than what we saw last week at Trinity Forest for the AT&T Byron Nelson, with in addition to Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, and Ricky Fowler also teeing it up at Colonial.

The course places a premium on shot-making, no surprise given the Who's Who list of previous champions. Tight fairways and small greens, at least by usual Tour standards, take away some of the advantage of the long hitters. I would expect another good ball-striking player like recent former champions Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott, David Toms, and Jordan Spieth to prevail.

I've been waiting for Matt Kuchar, a runner-up in 2013 to Boo Weekley, to break through with another Tour victory. His game suits the course and he's basically a top-10 machine. I also like Bryson DeChambeau and Brian Harman, both players that have flirted with wins in the 2017-2018 wraparound season.

Kevin Krest is the author of the entertaining PK Frazier series of sports suspense novels and the co-host of the weekly "The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports" broadcast. His books can be found on Amazon.com.

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