It was two weeks ago that the PGA Tour took us to the home of golfing legend, Byron Nelson. This week, we are at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Charles Schwab Challenge. The course has long been associated with another golf icon, Ben Hogan. To round out the trifecta, next week the Tour will be in Ohio for Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. Three of the very best players in the history of the game are represented in a four-week span.
Colonial Country Club hosted the U.S. Open in 1941. Since 1946, it has played host to this tour event annually, making it the longest-running single course to host a tournament other than Augusta National. It is a shorter, par-70 track that has never had the capabilities of expanding to meet the length of today’s players due to homes on the course bordering a great portion of the layout and the Trinity River running alongside about one quarter of the golf course. But Colonial continues to be held in high regard by the players, and the field is solid this week with 18 of the top 50 ranked players in the world in attendance and 9 of the top 20, including defending champion Justin Rose.
Ben Hogan won here five times, and because of this, Colonial has been dubbed “Hogan’s Alley.” He finished 3rd here at the 1941 U.S. Open. Much like Hogan’s game, the course demands accuracy, precision ball-striking, scrambling and putting. The fairways are tree-lined with 12 holes on the course dog-legging in either direction. Also like Augusta, few first-timers go on to win here at Colonial. It takes experience as we have not seen a rookie prevail since Sergio Garcia pulled it off in 2001. The Bentgrass greens are smaller in size and for a course correlation angle, we can look to Harbour Town, home to the RBC Heritage. Both courses require shaping shots in both directions, around dog-legs, to smaller than standard greens, and accuracy off of the tee. The players also have to negotiate the wind at both Harbour Town and Colonial. This week’s forecast in Fort Worth calls for a steady breeze in the range of 15-20 mph.
Finally, one other handicapping note about Colonial is that I always like to file away who performs well here this week as it can correlate into a strong performance at the U.S. Open. Accuracy off of the tee, ball striking, greens in regulation, smaller than Tour standard greens, wind . . . we’ll see all of these as key components to success at Pebble Beach next month.
FULL TOURNAMENT HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUP
If you followed our play in the column last week for the PGA Championship, Scott Piercy over Graeme McDowell, it turned into a pretty tough beat. Piercy went into the final round on Sunday last weekend with a four-stroke advantage over McDowell, only to end up shooting a gas station (76) and losing the head-to-head by two shots.
Kevin Kisner ( 125) over Bryson DeChambeau
This price is way off, and I believe the wrong player is favored. In three visits to this tournament, DeChambeau has missed the cut twice and finished 42nd last year. Kisner won here two years ago and has two other top-10 finishes. The stats are close with Kisner holding a slight edge. Kisner has been a perennial contender at the RBC Heritage while Dechambeau has finished top 5 twice, but also missed the cut on two occasions, including earlier this season. I also don’t know if I like DeChambeau’s frame of mind coming in. He complained about the setup at Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship, going on to shoot 72-74 and missing the cut, his second straight week of not making it to the weekend. Kisner missed the cut, too, at Bethpage, but that was not a course at all for his type of game. This one is, and I’ll take him as the big underdog to DeChambeau here.
A LONG SHOT & A CONTENDER
Brandt Snedeker (50-1)
Snedeker comes off a promising week at the PGA Championship, where he finished 16th, and was 10th in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to green. In eight trips to Colonial, he has never missed the cut and took 2nd in 2015. Snedeker has also shown to be an excellent player in windy conditions, having won in the elements at both Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. His work on and around the greens is some of the best in the world. If he continues to perform well off of the tee, he ought to have a great shot this week.
Ian Poulter (30-1)
Poulter has fared well in the state of Texas lately, winning the Houston Open last year and taking 5th at the WGC Match Play in the week prior. He has four Top 10 finishes this season and his missed cut last week at the PGA was his first since last September. He’s played Colonial five times with a 15th place and two top-10 finishes. Also, he has never missed the cut at the RBC Heritage in nine tries. He’s accurate off of the tee, ranks 15th on Tour in Greens in Regulation and is 66th in Strokes Gained: Putting.