It is just a 34-minute drive down I-30E for the second stop on the Texas Legends Tour.
After the PGA celebrated the life and legacy of the man known as Lord Byron at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson in Irving, the PGA Tour shifts to Fort Worth and “Hogan’s Alley” for the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.
It is a tournament hosted by famed Colonial Country Club, a place with ubiquitous references to and mentions of another all-time great, Ben Hogan.
Florida, Georgia, and California might induce the most golf wanderlust, but in regards to American golf history, substance, and tradition, nobody eclipses the Lone Star State.
This year’s Dean & DeLuca field is 121 incredibly talented golfers strong and led by the present and future of golf in the United States, defending champion, and Dallas native, Jordan Spieth.
Spieth’s increased local celebrity will undoubtedly draw the largest following this week, but with a field also boasting the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, and Jon Rahm, among others, East Texas will be richer in golf pride than it is in oil. It is the can’t-miss event of Memorial Day weekend.
The Dean & DeLuca Invitational is nowhere near short on history, as the tournament holds the distinction of being the longest-continuously running event at one course on Tour among non-majors.
That one course is Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, and this tournament has been held there since its inception in 1946, being played every year, with the exception of 1949 (due to flooding).
Colonial is permanently tied to this event, but interestingly enough, the course got its professional start as the 1941 U.S. Open venue. The course showed its teeth right away, as the U.S. Open field was outright beat down. The winner of the tournament, Craig Wood, finished at +4. The tournament was so difficult that those at +15 finished in a tie for 10th.
In the 1946 inaugural Dean & DeLuca Invitational, then known as the Colonial National Invitation, was won by the legendary Ben Hogan, who would go on to win the tournament a record five times. As a result of his success, Colonial is often referred to as “Hogan’s Alley”.
In addition to Hogan, event winners have included Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Gene Litler, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Phil Mickelson.
Nobody has won more than twice, with the exception of Hogan’s five. Ten players have won twice, with Zach Johnson (2010, 2012) accomplishing it most recently.
As an “invitational,” the Dean & DeLuca has a more exclusive field than most events (121 golfers this year), and is given more freedom with its invites. The tournament famously has a “Champion’s Choice” invitation, where past champions of the event grant two spots to players of their choice who otherwise did not qualify.
A Champion’s Choice has won on just a single occasion, when Dave Stockton took the 1967 title, finishing as the only man in the field under par (-2).
Name: Colonial Country Club
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Distance: 7209 Yards | Par 70
Architect: John Bredemus, Perry Maxwell
Winning Share: $1,242,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500
The defending champion of the Dean & DeLuca Invitational is Jordan Spieth. Spieth led through three rounds, but was caught in round four by Harris English and Ryan Palmer.
Spieth exploded on the back nine, though, coming in at 5-under, and posting a 5-under 65 to win by three strokes over English. He had birdies on 10, 11, and 12, and then ended with another turkey, carding birdies on 16, 17, and 18. It was his eighth career victory.
Other Recent Champions
2015: Chris Kirk
2014: Adam Scott
2013: Boo Weekley
2012: Zach Johnson
2011: David Toms
Lowest Final Score: The lowest final score at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational is the 259 (-21) shot by Zach Johnson in his 2010 victory.
Low Round: 61 (Keith Clearwater, Lee Janzen, Greg Kraft, Kenny Perry, Justin Leonard, Chad Campbell)
Round 1: 4-7:00 PM – Golf Channel
Round 2: 4-7:00 PM – Golf Channel
Round 3: 1-2:30 PM – Golf Channel; 3-6:00 PM – CBS
Round 4: 1-2:30 PM – Golf Channel; 3-6:00 PM – CBS
Storyline 1: Spieth Defends
A Dallas native, Texans have fully embraced Jordan Spieth as one of their own, and needless to say, they were overjoyed last year when Spieth rode six back-nine birdies to his eighth career PGA Tour title. It was his first, and still his only professional victory in his home state.
The win was likely a huge relief for Spieth, as it was his first post-2016 Masters meltdown victory, and it somewhat quieted the horde of critics, who seemingly every week were asking if he was “over it” yet.
Like last year, Spieth is coming into Colonial ranked highly (he was #2 last year and is #7 this year). Also, like last year, Spieth already has one victory on the year, this time the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which he took back in February.
There is, however, one significant difference this year: Spieth is coming off back-to-back missed cuts. It is just the second time in five years on Tour (writer’s comment: Wow, it has been five years already?) that has happened to Spieth, with the last time being the first two events of the 2015 FedEx Cup playoffs. Spieth ended up winning the FedEx Cup anyway.
Two weeks ago, at THE PLAYERS, Spieth opened 73-75 to miss the cut by two strokes. He looked to have put that uncharacteristically poor performance behind him when he shot a 2-under 68 in the first round of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, but a round two that included five bogeys and a quadruple-bogey led to another 75, and he missed the cut by a single stroke.
The good news for Spieth is that the last two weeks look anomalous when contrasted with the rest of his season, a season that includes a victory, two thirds, a T6, and a T9.
Spieth’s iron game has been phenomenal all season, as he is second on Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green and third in greens in regulation percentage, which are excellent indicators that he should be among those to beat in Fort Worth. And that is not even taking his home-crowd advantage into account.
Storyline 2: Si Woo Kim’s first Post-PLAYERS Start
The profile of South Korea’s Si Woo Kim has risen prodigiously since his surprise victory at THE PLAYERS Championship.
He had been cold entering TPC Sawgrass, making fewer than half his cuts on the season, and not finishing inside the top 20 in any event. It was largely excusable, though, as Kim is just 21-year-old and had won on Tour before (the 2016 Wyndham Championship), but now that the second year player’s slump is in his rear-view mirror, the Tour is wondering just how high he can soar.
Although, maybe it would be wise to pump the breaks a little on the Kim Hype Train.
Even with his PLAYERS triumph, his statistics are abysmal. Among 207 qualifying golfers, he ranks 198th in strokes gained: total and 198th in scoring average. He is 199th in greens in regulation percentage, basically making him the anti-Spieth.
The juxtaposition between his form on the season and his performance at THE PLAYERS is an interesting one, and how he comes out of the gate at Colonial is very much worth a close watch.
Storyline 3: Champion’s Choice Sponsor’s Exemptions: Hossler and Sadlowski
One of the more fascinating traditions on the PGA Tour is employed at the Dean & DeLuca. In what is called a “Champion’s Choice”, past Colonial winners decide on two players who otherwise do not qualify for the tournament, and gives them a spot. This year’s exemptions were given to two intriguing players: Beau Hossler and Jamie Sadlowski.
Between the two, Hossler’s name is more likely to sound familiar to the casual golf fan. The Texas resident (California native) was an incredible college golfer at the University of Texas, defending Dean & DeLuca champion Jordan Spieth’s alma matar.
The 22-year-old made headlines in 2016 when he injured his shoulder in the NCAA Championship, just before Texas was set to play eventual champion Oregon in the final round. It was the last time we saw Hossler as an amateur (he was ranked #2 among amateurs at the time), as he declared pro soon after.
In his final college season, he was named a winner of the Fred Haskins award, a prestigious honor that goes to the best golfer at a Division I college. He even qualified for the U.S. Open three times as an amateur, with a high finish of T29 in 2012.
Hossler made his professional debut a challenging one, as he entered the Farmers Insurance Open at notoriously difficult Torrey Pines in late January. He opened with a bogey-free 5-under 67, and while he did not look anywhere near as good in the next three rounds (he finished at -1, good for a T49), he did make the cut, which is something that cannot be said about Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, or Tiger Woods.
He has played six tournaments this year, making the cut in just three of them, but his breakout is inevitable. He is expected to be a big part of the American future in professional golf.
Sadlowski does not quite have Hossler’s resume as an elite amateur player, but he is known as one of the longest drivers in the world.
A 28-year-old from Alberta, Canada, Sadlowski has twice won the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship, basically the Super Bowl of long driving, in addition to a number of other long drive events. He could routinely hit the ball over 400 yards, with a personal best of 445 in 2010.
Sadlowski moved on from that life just last year, and is attempting to make it big as a professional golfer. This will be his PGA Tour debut. He has played on the Asian, McKenzie, and Web.com tours with limited success, but even if he bombs in Fort Worth this week, he will draw a crowd off the tees.
Storyline 4: Mickelson’s Return to Colonial
A fan favorite whenever he tees up, two-time Dean & DeLuca champion (2000, 2008) will be in the field for the first time since 2010.
Mickelson missed the cut that year, and in a later interview said that he would not be coming back to Colonial, criticizing a number of changes that had been made to the course design.
Those running the tournament were reported to have found Phil’s comments insulting, especially after they had organized a “Pink Out” in 2009 in honor of Mickelson’s wife, Amy, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer (Phil sat out that year to be with her).
The tournament director referred to Mickelson’s inclusion as “a pleasant surprise” and the two sides sound motivated to move on from any residual animosity.
As for Phil’s game, it has been up-and-down in 2017, although he has not missed a cut on the season. His best 2017 finishes have been T5 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and a T7 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, while he disappointed at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (T65) and THE PLAYERS (T41).
Phil has not been driving well this season, but as usual, his short game has been among the best on Tour. He still has not won since 2013, but his performance has been excellent for a player approaching his late 40s.
Other Notables In the Field
A Texas native, who played his college golf at Texas A&M, would love to finally take a Colonial title in his home state. He has been agonizingly close on a number of occasions, most recently last year when he was T3 after four rounds of 68 or better.
His two best finishes of 2017 have both come within the last month: he was T6 at the Valero Texas Open, and teamed up with Jordan Spieth for a solo-fourth at the Zurich Classic. He was also T5 in both 2012 and 2014.
The 2017 Masters Champion has also been victorious at Colonial, winning the 2001 title at just 21 years old, his first career PGA Tour win. Sergio won that event in style, shooting a final round 63 to overcome a five-shot deficit.
This will be his first attempt at the Dean & DeLuca since he finished T13 in 2012. In two starts since his Masters breakthrough, Sergio has been in contention after 54 holes, only to implode on Sunday. That is a trend he is hoping will soon be reversed.
Horschel’s playoff victory over Jason Day at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson was his first win since his FedEx Cup clinching triumph at the 2014 Tour Championship.
He came into the tournament off four straight missed cuts, but was steady all week in Dallas, breaking 70 in each of the four rounds, and came up big down the stretch on Sunday. This will be Horschel’s Colonial debut.
No, that is not a name we just made up. Atiwit “Jazz” Janewattananond is an immensely talented 21-year-old who just might be the future of Thai golf. He will be making his PGA Tour debut at the Dean & Deluca this week.
Jazz exploded onto the Asian Golf Scene in 2010, when at 14 years old, be became the youngest ever to make the cut in an Asian Tour event. After a few strong seasons, his star trajectory hit a surprising snag with a disappointing 2016, but he has broken out in 2017, with two victories between the Asian Tour and the MENA Tour.
Since Christmas, Jazz has risen from 470th in the world to his current spot at No. 216. He is hoping to be for men’s golf what LPGA superstar Ariya Jutanugarn (who is just three days older than him) has been for Thailand in women’s golf.
For the first time in four months, Rahm looked mortal at THE PLAYERS Championship, finishing MDF at TPC Sawgrass (T72) after a disastrous third-round 82, his worst round of the season by seven strokes.
That one round aside, the 21-year-old World No. 12 has been phenomenal in 2017, accomplishing what looks like some PGA version of hitting for the cycle, with finishes of 1, 2, T3, 4, and T5.
The Spanish prodigy just declared pro 11 months ago, so he has not yet tested his talents at Colonial, but it would still be surprising if he did not perform well.
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