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Crowne Plaza Invitational Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 05/17/2011

For the fourth straight week, a tournament champion was crowned after a playoff as K.J. Choi won THE PLAYERS Championship over David Toms after a one-hole playoff. The PGA Tour heads back to the Lone Star State for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. The Colonial has had it share of exciting finishes as in the last five years, three have been decided by a sudden death playoff so with the way the tour is going this year, it would not surprising to see another.

Colonial Country Club has hosted this event since the tournament’s inception in 1946, making it the second oldest PGA Tour event still being played at its original site with the Masters at Augusta National being the oldest. Colonial remains a shot-maker's course. A long drive is nice, but to win Colonial, a golfer must have a skillful touch on his approach and on the greens. Ben Hogan, who is memorialized all over Colonial, once said, “A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know.”

After playing holes no. 1 and 2, Colonial jumps into a three-hole stretch referred to as the “Horrible Horseshoe”, the three most difficult holes on the golf course that are shaped, well, like a horseshoe. After this, the track lightens up and players can go low here. Over the last five years, the winner has achieved -12 or better with the four-day record being -21. Last year it was the third easiest par 70 course on the schedule so some holes where players will walk away with pars will be a disappointment.

Given the fact that there was a big tournament played last week, the Colonial will not have a strong field this week as tradition does not play as big of a role as it used to in players coming to the event. Matt Kuchar is the only top ten player from the OWGR playing this week although 16 of the top 25 from last week's PLAYERS are teeing it up again this week. In addition, six past champions of the Colonial since 2000 will be back to try and win again.

This includes defending champion Zach Johnson (+2500) who won last year thanks to a final round 64 which secured a three-shot win over Brian Davis. He got off to a slow start this year but he is coming off a T12 last week as he got better as the week progressed and this came after a T6 at Quail Hollow the previous week. Prior to his win last year, he finished T9 at Colonial in 2009.

Jason Day (+2000) is showing up almost every Sunday on the leaderboard. After a spectacular T2 finish at the Masters, he followed that up with a T9 at the Heritage and last week at Sawgrass, he finished T6. His only PGA Tour win came at the Byron Nelson, another Texas stop. He finished T50 here last year, the week after his win, and T9 in 2009. He is a member of Colonial so local knowledge helps.

Is Sergio Garcia (+3000) starting to come into form? He has made his last twelve cuts in events both here and on the European Tour and last week he showed signs of closing. He finished with a final round 65 for a T12 on a course where he had previously won. The same can be said at Colonial and even though it was back in 2001, the fact that he has not been here since 2005 shows how he wants to become great again.

Brian Gay (+4000) has missed only one cut this season and despite no top tens since February, this could be the breakthrough. Two double bogeys and a quad did him in last week at Sawgrass but he still finished T12, just five shots back. He has cashed each of the last three years at Colonial including a T10 in 2008 and his rankings of first on tour in scrambling and total driving set him up well here.

Bill Haas (+4000) is quietly putting together a solid season even though he has missed more cuts of late, including one at THE PLAYERS last week. He is ranked in the top 20 in the FedEx Standings so he has been fairly consistent. He was a two-time winner on tour last year and he has four top tens to his credit this season. Haas finished T13 at Colonial last year after skipping the event in 2009.

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