Notes From Colonial: Welcome Back PGA

by Larry Ness

The Colonial golf tournament has been held every year since 1946, with exceptions in 1949 (flooding of the Trinity River, which orders the course) and 1975, when the club hosted the second Tournament Players Championship in August. The most noteworthy winner of the tournament is Ben Hogan; the late Fort Worth resident won five times, which earned the course the nickname "Hogan's Alley." Many may remember that Annika Sörenstam played in the 2003 tournament and became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years (Babe Zaharias made three cuts as an amateur in 1945). Sörenstam's participation drew HUGE media attention but she shot 71 and 74 and missed the cut by four strokes.

As noted above, the Colonial golf tournament has been held every year since 1946, making it the longest running non-major tour event held at the same site. Charles Schwab & Co, a major sponsor on the PGA Tour and PGA Champions Tour, expanded its golf presence in 2019 by assuming title sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club (four-year agreement, from 2019-2022). The 2020 tournament will be played June 11–14, as the first PGA Tour event staged since the interruption of the regular schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interests of maximum health and safety, the tournament will be played with no spectators attending, which will be a PGA Tour first.

While there won’t be fans on the grounds at Colonial Country Club when the PGA Tour resumes play on Thursday, 16 of the top-20 in the Official World Rankings will be participating. The Tour announced its featured groupings on Sunday and the top-three ranked players in the world—Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka—will play together. The trio played together in the first round of this year's Players Championship back on March 12, which was eventually wiped out when the tournament was canceled on Thursday night at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic (FYI...Rahm shot 69, Koepka 70 and McIlroy 72). 

McIlroy is the hottest player in the game with one win and five other top-5s in his last six starts (he is making his tournament debut). Rahm has played just five events in the 2019-20 season but has four top-10 finishes  His best finishes are a 2nd at the Farmers (Torrey Pines) in late January and a T-3 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, which is the last time he's played an event (ended Feb 23). Rahm has two top-5s at Colonial. Koepka, who has won FOUR majors since 2017 (two US Opens and two PGAs), will be making his sixth appearance of the current season. Believe it or not, he's had two missed cuts, had a W/D at the CJ Cup@Nine Bridges, plus owns a T-43 at the Genesis Invitational (Riviera) and a T-47 in Arrnie's tourney at Bay Hill. Koepka has played at Colonial only once, but he shot a pair of 63s to finish T-2 in 2017.

Boyhood friends Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will play with arguably the Tour's "favorite son," Rickie Fowler. Spieth turns 27 in late July and has already won 11 PGA Tour events, including THREE majors. However, Jordan's last Tour win was the 2017 British Open. He tees off Thursday at Colonial having gone SIXTY starts since winning his third major. Meanwhile, Thomas (who turned 27 in April) has caught and passed his longtime friend with 12 Tour titles (lone major came in the 2017 PGA). Two of his career wins have come in the current season and he tees off at Colonial ranked 4th in the OWR. The ever-popular Fowler, who will turn 32 in December, will tee it up for the 243rd start of his career but owns a modest FIVE wins and NO majors.

Kevin Na (four career PGA wins) is the defending Schwab Challenge champion, as he won by four shots over Tony Finau in 2019. Na will be paired with Gary Woodland and Phil. Woodland, like Na, owns a modest four PGA wins (turned professional in 2007) but one of them was the 2019 US Open. Phil needs no introduction but note he turns 50 on June 16 and has dropped to No. 63 in the World Rankings with four missed cuts in his last five starts. Phil won the 2013 British Open (his fifth major) and shortly thereafter declared, "I'm playing the best golf of my career!" Phil's won 44 PGA titles (9th all-time) but since that win at The Open, he's won TWO of his 143 starts. 

Good luck...Larry

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