Primer: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere

Old-style golf.

That’s what the young bucks who make up a sizable portion of the PGA Tour these days — such as last week’s winner, 21-year-old power player Aaron Wise — will have to deal with when they visit Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, a favorite haunt of Ben Hogan both as a player and post-career.

Ben Hogan in 1965 at the age of 52. Credit: Getty Images/Bettman

Colonial has always been known as a shotmaker’s golf course, dating back to its opening in 1936. It’s been an annual PGA Tour stop since 1946, a streak bettered only by Augusta National. Hogan won this event five times, and more often than not, the winner seems to be a player known for his skill in crafting shots instead of pounding tee shots.

Kevin Kisner, currently 182nd in driving distance this season, was last year’s winner, thanks to a timely Sunday round of 66. In fact, among all the players to claim the Colonial title since 2010, only one — 2014 champ Adam Scott (who with his recent improving play will be one to keep an eye on this week) — is currently among the top 75 on tour in average driving distance.

This is Zach Johnson’s kind of course — he won at Colonial in 2010 and 2012 — and his strength has been, and continues to be, controlling the ball, as he’s No. 1 on tour this year in proximity to the hole for his approach shots.

Another storyline of note will be the first outing for Webb Simpson since his run-away-and-hide win at THE PLAYERS Championship. He finished fifth at Colonial a year ago, so he has to be deemed a major threat.

Here are more details on what to expect this week in Fort Worth.


THE SKINNY

Tournament: Fort Worth Invitational
Dates: May 24-27, 2018
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Course: Colonial Country Club
Distance: Par 70, 7,209 yards
Architect: John Bredemus/Perry Maxwell (1936)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Purse: $7,100,000
Winning Share: $1,278,000
Defending Champion: Kevin Kisner
Marquee Players: Kisner, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson


TV AND ONLINE

Round 1: Thu 4-7:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 4-7:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Round 4: Sun 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
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HISTORY

Colonial Country Club 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.

Credit: Getty Images/Sarah Crabill

At just over 7,200 yards, Colonial was considered lengthy at the time. Today, it plays as one of the shorter tracks on tour.

In the 1946 inaugural event, known initially by the name of the Colonial National Invitation, Ben Hogan stepped right up and claimed the first title, and then repeated again the next year. He scored five victories overall in this event, including the only back-to-back victories (1952-53). As a result of that success, Colonial is often referred to as “Hogan’s Alley.”

In addition to Hogan, event winners have included legends such as Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, and Jordan Spieth.

Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere

Nobody has won more than twice, with the exception of Hogan’s five. Ten players own a pair of titles, with Zach Johnson (2010, 2012) accomplishing it most recently.

As an “invitational,” the Fort Worth event has a more exclusive field than most tournaments (121 golfers this year), and is given more freedom with its invites. The tournament famously has a “Champion’s Choice” invitation, where the previous year’s champion gets to 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).

TOURNAMENT NAMES

2018: Fort Worth Invitational
2016-17: Dean & DeLuca Invitational
2007-15: Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial
2003-06: Bank of America Colonial
1996-02: MasterCard Colonial
1995: Colonial National Invitation
1989-94: Southwestern Bell Colonial
1946-88: Colonial National Invitation

RECENT WINNERS

2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)
2015: Chris Kirk (-12)
2014: Adam Scott (-9)
2013: Boo Weekley (-14)
2012: Zach Johnson (-12)
2011: David Toms (-15)

TOURNAMENT RECORDS

SCORING
259 (-21) Zach Johnson (2010)

WINS
5 – Ben Hogan (1946-47, 1952-53, 1959)
2 – Zach Johnson (2010, 2012)
2 – Phil Mickelson (2000, 2008)
2 – Nick Price (1994, 2002)
2 – Corey Pavin (1985, 1996)
2 – Bruce Lietzke (1980, 1992)
2 – Ben Crenshaw (1977, 1990)
2 – Lee Trevino (1976, 1978)
2 – Billy Casper (1964, 1968)
2 – Julius Boros (1960, 1963)


DEFENDING CHAMPION

Kevin Kisner scored the second victory of his PGA Tour career last year at Colonial, when he emerged from a first-class leaderboard to win the event known as the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at the time.

Credit: Getty Images/Icon Sportswire

Starting the day three strokes behind 54-hole leader Webb Simpson, Kisner got hot early on the back nine, and then made some clutch shots down the stretch to finish at 4-under 66 (10-under for the tournament), winning by a single stroke over the intimidating trio of defending champion Jordan Spieth, Sean O’Hair and Jon Rahm.

Carding par or better on 67 of 72 holes for the week, Kisner captured his second career PGA Tour title.

FINAL TOP 10

1 Kevin Kisner -10
2 Jordan Spieth -9
2 Sean O’Hair -9
2 Jon Rahm -9
5 Webb Simpson -8
6 Danny Lee -7
7 Brian Harman -6
7 Steve Stricker -6
7 Scott Piercy -6
10 Stewart Cink -4
10 Paul Casey -4


THE FIELD

The 2018 Fort Worth Invitational is setting up as one of those events that feels like it could be pivotal in the direction a number of prominent players’ summers will take.

Credit: Getty Images/Patrick Smith

There’s star power at the top of the field, with Nos. 3-6 in the world rankings, respectively, teeing it up in Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler.

You’ve also got No. 11 Brooks Koepka, who looks like he’s finally putting his wrist injury behind him, and No. 20 Webb Simpson, who will be playing for the first time since scoring the second-biggest win of his career two weeks ago with his dominant showing at THE PLAYERS Championship, ending a five-season victory drought.

Defending champ Kevin Kisner has played some good golf this spring, making the championship match of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event and grabbing a share of 7th place at the RBC Heritage. He’s also played some not-so-good golf, missing the cut in his last two starts at the Wells Fargo Championship and THE PLAYERS.

But Colonial has been one of his favorite tracks, so don’t count him out. Besides his victory last year, he had top 10 finishes in Fort Worth in 2015 and 2016.

Many eyes will be focused on Spieth. Colonial is still the only place in Texas where he has won a PGA Tour event, which came in 2016, and he barely missed a repeat last year, finishing one stroke behind Kisner.

But his putting continues to be not close to his standards, and he’s not recorded any finish this year higher than third place. He also posted a disappointing tie for 21st last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Anything less than being strongly in the mix this week will continue to raise questions about the state of Spieth’s game.

Credit: Getty Images/Stacy Revere

Rahm was right there with Spieth last year, finishing in a tie for second at Colonial in his first visit to the course. He’s not been playing well in his last two events on the PGA Tour, but he’s also shown in the past the ability to suddenly snap back into form.

Similar things could be said about Fowler and Rose, as neither one has shown prime form in any recent event. Should any of this group manage a victory at Colonial, it could light the fuse for the key stretch ahead that includes coveted titles in the Memorial and the U.S. Open.

Curiosity will be very high about Simpson. Was his showing at THE PLAYERS an indication the 2012 U.S. Open champion has found something? With the confidence of how well he putted at TPC and a track record at Colonial that includes a tie for third last year and a tie for fifth two years ago, he’s clearly one of the favorites for this week.

Koepka and Jimmy Walker are both past major champions who are bouncing back from health issues. Koepka’s tie for 11 at THE PLAYERS was a positive sign and his best showing since returning to play a month ago.

How his game suits Colonial remains to be seen, as he’s not played this event previously. But with his defense of his 2017 U.S. Open title looming in the weeks ahead, you can be sure he’s feeling the motivation to return to top form.

Walker has clearly shaken off the impact of the Lyme’s disease that hurt him in 2017, with top six showings in three of his last four tour starts.

Finally, if you are looking for sleeper players who are relishing the sight of coming back through the gates of Colonial, keep an eye on Brian Harman and Zach Johnson.

Harman is quietly having a very solid year, and he’s placed in the top 10 two times in the last three years at Colonial. Johnson, with two career victories in this event, is the all-time earnings leader at Colonial. He’s also never missed a cut in 12 previous appearances. His best result of this season was a month ago in Texas, when he finished fifth at the Valero Texas Open.


STORYLINES

Credit: Getty Images/Ross Kinnaird

1. ADAM SCOTT SEEKS SHINNECOCK

Adam Scott has played in every U.S. Open since 2002 and has qualified for the past 68 major championships, but with less than a month to go before this year’s national Open, Scott currently finds himself on the wrong side of the bubble to play at Shinnecock Hills.

2. KISNER DEFENDS

Kevin Kisner won the 2017 Fort Worth Invitational off the strength of a torrid back nine Sunday stretch, adding birdies on 10, 11, 12, and 15 to reach 10-under for the week, and clipping an impressive runner-up group that contained both Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm. It was the second victory of Kisner’s career.

3. SIZZLING SIMPSON IN ACTION

Webb Simpson was the 54-hole leader at last year’s Fort Worth Invitational, but after carding just one birdie in the final round, Simpson had to settle for a T5. Coming into this year’s version, absolutely no one will be thinking about that.

4. A WISE PLAY

Webb Simpson is not the only player in the Fort Worth Invitational field coming off a life-altering victory. Aaron Wise, a college star at the University of Oregon, captured his maiden title last week, a three-stroke victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

5. IS KOEPKA BACK?

Webb Simpson and Tiger Woods stole most of the attention at THE PLAYERS two weeks ago, but one performance that cannot be overlooked was the sizzling 9-under final round of Brooks Koepka, which included an albatross, and vaulted him up 52 spots on the final leaderboard, into a tie for 11th.

6. SPIETH’S PUTTER STRUGGLES

For the second-straight week, Dallas native Jordan Spieth is playing what is essentially a home match. The crowd was behind him as much as they were anyone at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, which was played at a brand-new course (Trinity Forest) where Spieth is a member.

7. CHAMPION’S CHOICE

One of the interesting twists to the Fort Worth Invitational is the inclusion of “Champion’s Choices,” which involves the former event winners awarding spots to two players who were not otherwise eligible. This year, the champions went with the youth movement, deciding on 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann and 21-year-old Sam Burns.

Read all the storylines.



VIDEO: TOURNAMENT PREVIEW


FULL FIELD & ODDS

A look at the field, listed by world rank and odds.

Place your bets on the Fort Worth Invitational at Bovada.


Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images



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