Crowne Plaza Invitational: A preview and best bets for this week's PGA Tour event in Texas
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 21/05/14 2:37pm
The PGA Tour heads to Texas for a fourth and final time this season, with some eye-catching names in the line-up for this week's Crowne Plaza Invitational.
The much-loved Colonial Country Club, which is laid out along the floodplain of the Trinity River, has hosted the tournament since 1946.
Tight fairways and tricky dog-legs are in abundance on the now 7,204-yard par 70 that was opened 78 years ago.
A number of changes were made to bunkers, greens and tees in 2008 to renovate a course that is steeped in golf history.
Local Fort Worth resident Ben Hogan was a regular visitor to Colonial and the nine-time Major champion won the Invitational on five occasions - including the inaugural event.
Zach Johnson, a two-time winner of this event (2010 and 2012) is the 12/1 favourite while there is a clear front five in the betting with Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar at 14/1, just in front of new World No 1 Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth at 16/1.
The forecasts suggest we're in for a very pleasant week with temperatures in the 80s and a minimum chance of rain. A harsh winter and another freeze in March has caused problems for course superintendent, Scott Ebers, who says: "We had some winter kill in the fairways. It’s not like we have expanses of dead turf. Overall, it’s very good. I’m not sure you’d notice anything on TV."
Players usually have to go low on the par 70 at Colonial Country Club to take the trophy. Winning scores in the last five years are -14 (Boo Weekley, 2013), -12 (Zach Johnson, 2012), -15 (David Toms, 2011), -21 (Zach Johnson, 2010) and -17 (Steve Stricker, 2009).
All the top five in the betting warrant respect but it's hard to come down firmly on the side of just one of them.
Therefore it may pay to look a bit further down the odds and to two players at the 40/1 mark.
First up is Texan local Ryan Palmer, who has finished 5th (2012) and 14th (2013) on this course in the last two years.
A reason for that could be that his caddie is a member at Colonial so is clearly expert at knowing the spots to miss and how to read the greens.
Palmer is a two-time runner-up this season and was a decent 22nd at last week's Byron Nelson and his high position (10th) in the ball-striking stats (a key skill at Colonial) suggests he has the ideal package to push strongly for the title.
Also at 40/1, Rickie Fowler merits plenty of respect.
Fowler loves shaping the ball both ways so will relish this test which is crammed full of dog-legs.
Young Rickie has close ties with Crowne Plaza - he stars in their ad campaigns - so there will be plenty of buzz around him this week and, as we've seen before, that's when he often thrives.
He's already made waves in a Ryder Cup, an Open and this year's Masters while in this event he can boast a fifth in 2012 and a 16th in 2011.
Sixth at the Houston Open on his last visit to Texas, Fowler can shine again.
Charley Hoffman is something of a Texas specialist and has made the top 20 in six of his last seven starts in the Lone Star State.
He's finished 18th and 13th in his last two visits here and was fifth in the Zurich Classic only two starts ago.
Those are decent credentials for a 66/1 shot, whose wins have come when the birdies were flying.
2pts e.w. Ryan Palmer (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Rickie Fowler (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Charley Hoffman (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)