FT. WORTH INVITATIONAL: Despite the new name, the Ft. Worth Invitational is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour, dating back to 1946. And the name is apparently temporary, as the tournament has reportedly found a new title sponsor for next year’s edition and will presumably change its name once again. If you’re keeping track, that’s Master Card Colonial > Bank of America Colonial > Crowne Plaza Invitational > Dean & DeLuca Invitational > Ft. Worth Invitational > Whatever Comes Next, all since 2002.
But one thing never changes: the venue. Colonial Country Club has played host to this event since its inception over 70 years ago, and the course forever known as “Hogan’s Alley” still has enough character to give the best players in the world fits despite its relatively modest length. A par 70 that measures 7,200 yards, Colonial is an old-style layout full of doglegs, narrow tree-lined fairways, and smallish, tricky green complexes. Many of the holes essentially force the players to put the ball in the same spot off the tee, negating some of the advantage that the longer guys normally have, and staying out of the sticky Bermuda rough is critical, so we’ll see lots of long irons/hybrids/fairway woods off the tee.
Kevin Kisner took home the trophy and the accompanying “Royal Tartan” plaid jacket last year, but Kisner has been struggling of late, missing back-to-back cuts and finding the top-10 just once in his past 13 starts, so I’m content to stay away, even at a price like 47.0. Kisner’s 10-under 270 last year was the highest winning score this tournament had seen since 2014, but the eventual champion has topped the 15-under mark just once in the past seven stagings, so we shouldn’t expect a birdie-fest this week. Colonial is grind-it-out, fairways and smart-side type of place, a course where the Zach Johnsons and Steve Strickers of the world traditionally excel.
Our own luck has run a bit cold over these past few weeks, but I’ve got a funny feeling that this week may turn out to be different. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Rickie Fowler (19.0)– I expect Fowler to fly somewhat under the radar this week considering he’s coming off a missed cut at The Players, but I think we should be careful about making any grand pronouncements on his game based on rounds of 74-71 at TPC Sawgrass. After all, his results as a whole over the past couple of months have been quite good– three finishes of 21st or better in the four events prior to The Players, including a runner-up showing at The Masters. He’s an excellent iron player who plays well on tough courses, which seemingly makes him a good fit for Colonial, and though he hasn’t played this tournament in a couple of years, he does have a couple of good finishes here, highlighted by a T5 in 2012. At nearly 20/1, I think Fowler is worth a bet this week.
Chesson Hadley (62.0)- Hadley has been on a tear lately, with top-20 finishes in each of his past six events, including a T11 at The Players in his last start. He’s found the top-5 five times this season, so he should be accustomed to being in contention, and he’s closed the deal before, though not since 2014. While many will point to the fact that he’s only made one cut in three appearances at Colonial, I’m not yet convinced that the course doesn’t suit him: his MC on debut in 2014 came amidst a stretch of 10 missed cuts in 11 starts, so he was obviously playing terribly; he then finished 24th in 2015, shooting 67-66 over the weekend, and in 2016 he logged another MC after rounds of 73-72, but again it came during a bad stretch of golf that featured 6 missed cuts in 8 starts. So he’s come here twice in bad form and missed the cut both times, and he found the top-25 on the other occasion. Now he comes in playing the best golf of his career and I believe he offers superb value at better than 60/1.
Danny Lee (94.0)– Lee has had a rough year, missing 8 of 9 cuts at one point and going 14 straight starts without finding the top-50. He began to show some signs of snapping out of it in April, however, stringing together some good rounds at the RBC Heritage and the Valero Texas Open, and then he officially busted out at The Players a couple of weeks ago, opening with rounds of 68-66 and going on to finish 7th. Now he comes to a place that has treated him well in the past: Lee has made the cut in all five of his career appearances at this event, and he’s coming off a 6th-place finish last year. A resident of the greater Dallas area, Lee has surely played dozens of rounds at Colonial and obviously feels very comfortable with the layout. This feels like a good spot for him– coming off his best performance of the season, playing a course he knows and has succeeded on, yet still sporting the long odds of a guy who hasn’t been much of a factor this year. I’m in.