It would be a supreme honor for any player to be mentioned in the same sentence with Ben Hogan, and that’s what Jordan Spieth hopes to do this week at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Spieth is the defending champion at this wonderful tournament, and he seeks to join Hogan as the only players to win consecutive titles.
Hogan, of course, won the inaugural Colonial National Invitation Tournament in 1946 and repeated in ’47. He won back-to-back again in 1952-53. A Dallas native, Spieth can erase the disappointment of consecutive missed cuts, the second coming in his hometown event just a short hop away from the AT&T Byron Nelson. But the world’s No. 7 player will have a tough task as he contends with more than just the 7,204-yard, par-70 layout that remains one of the finest shot-making challenges on the PGA TOUR.
Hogan won it five times in all, and the list of past champions includes Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins, Tom Weiskopf, Billy Casper, Nick Price, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Zach Johnson.
The field, as always, shines with many of the PGA TOUR’s best, including reigning Masters winner Sergio Garcia, No. 6 in the world. Fourteen PGA TOUR winners from the past year are teeing it up, as are nine past champions at Colonial, including Garcia and two-time winners Mickelson and Johnson. AT&T Byron Nelson winner Billy Horschel seeks the rare Texas double, while Ryan Palmer hopes to win at the club he calls home.
Gary McCord, veteran CBS Sports golf announcer, sizes up the week in his own inimitable way.
We have to start with the golf course, which is one of the best layouts on TOUR. What makes it special?
We have very few of these venues left that we have played on since the start of the tournament. We get one next week at the Memorial Tournament, too. At Colonial, you have the history of Hogan that catches your attention. It’s an old-style course that guys don’t get to look at a lot anymore, as we play on TPCs and other newer places. Over time it has taken all the shots and all comers and still is a great test. It’s a heck of a golf course.
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Until Spieth won last year, the tournament saw seven straight come-from-behind winners. What about the course contributes to that?
Wind comes up in the afternoon, so if you can post low early and then just sit and watch what happens, you can find yourself in a good spot. Towards the end of the day it gets tricky. You’ve got to fit it in the fairways between the trees. It’s tough to aim the darn thing and get in the clubhouse. I remember I once got in before the wind and passed 70 guys. The wind really does affect how you play the golf course. And late in the day it’s hard and crusty, too, so very tough to play from the lead.
Which way do you see Jordan Spieth going this week after missing the cut in two straight starts? Last time he did that, in 2015, he won the next event.
He’s 23. Don’t worry about Jordan Spieth. There are going to be hiccups along the way. He had one bad hole last week, that 16th hole where he pumped two out of bounds, but he’s going to be fine. The good thing about him is his memory is short. Guys who play well have short memories, good, bad or indifferent.
Phil Mickelson returns for the first time since 2010, as he begins his run up to the U.S. Open. Is this the kind of course where he can win after a four-year victory drought?
You wouldn’t think so, because his Achilles heel is off the tee. He likes to give it a whack. This golf course goes right against his grain, and yet he’s won there twice. It does fight him, but he has that otherworldly short game. That’s why you like to watch him, because you never know. It’s must-watch TV.
Is it easier or harder to win on your home course, as Ryan Palmer will try to do?
His caddie, Jim Edmondson, has been the club champion, and anytime you have more information than anyone else, that’s a positive. I would want to know where to hit it and where not to leave it. So, yes, Ryan Palmer has an advantage, but we’ll see.
Your favorites and dark horses, please.
There are plenty of strong candidates, but I like Sergio Garcia, the pure ball-striker. And Billy Horschel tends to stay hot, so after winning last week, he might be a handful. My long shot is Jamie Sadlowski, the long-drive champion, who received an exemption. He’ll be fun to watch.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.