By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A year ago, on the 72nd hole, Zach Johnson suffered a penalty for improperly marking his ball before his final putt. It cost him two strokes. It did not cost him the tournament.
It did cost him good-natured ribbing for the next 365 days.
"You can say that," he said.
Johnson won the 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial thanks to having a three-shot lead over Jason Dufner going to the final hole on Sunday. On the putting surface, Johnson's ball was in the line of Dufner's putt, so Johnson moved his ball marker ... then forgot to move it back when it came time to putt out.
Johnson's margin of victory went from three shots to one. He took full responsibility for the miscue, making fun of himself and smiling whenever anybody brought up the incident.
"I probably wouldn't be laughing as much if it influenced the outcome," he said. "Once again, I made a mistake. Live and learn."
During a charity event back in Johnson's hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Ben Crane and Stewart Cink addressed the crowd about "Golf 101." Of course, they brought up how to properly mark the ball, then proceeded to bring out a marker the size of a hubcap, with the slogan, "Remember Colonial."
"I had some peers of mine that poked fun at me at pretty good length," Johnson said. "It was pretty good."
Johnson would love to go to the 72nd hole this week with a similar advantage. He'll be sure to properly mark his ball this time. And then perhaps the ribbing will finally go away.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
There are some weeks in which seasoned one-and-doners just plug a guy in and forget about it. This is one of them.
Zach Johnson is the most obvious play for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. He's the defending champion, also won in 2010, sits No. 1 in all-time earnings at the event and has earned more at this tournament than any other in his career.
He has yet to log a top-15 finish this season, but his tie for 19th at THE PLAYERS Championship was his best in a full-field event. (He shared 18th place at the 30-man Hyundai Tournament of Champions to open the season.)
I'd burn him if I didn't already exhaust my one, self-imposed mulligan on a defending champion (Tiger Woods, Bay Hill). So, I'll ride a guy that likely went unlisted in games that require participants to fill in an entire season's worth of starts in January: Henrik Stenson.
He sits atop my Power Rankings and while he's just 2-for-3 at Colonial with no top 25s, he's been populating leaderboards for months. Prior to an early exit at last week's Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria, he tied for fifth at THE PLAYERS. It was his third top 10 in a five-event span.
Kevin Streelman is No. 2 in the Power Rankings. He's extremely tempting as a one-and-done. I love that he chalked up his breakthrough victory in Tampa as just another step in his career, and I won't talk you out of him. Call it a coin flip, but Stenson leads the PGA TOUR in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation.
David Toms ranks third in all-time earnings in the event. He epitomizes the profile of what it takes to succeed on the classic track, but he has just one top-45 finish in eight stroke-play starts this season.
Jim Furyk is fifth in earnings, but we'll continue to remain patient for a potential start as Colonial ranks 12th on his personal ranking of prize money earned. The others inside the top nine and on site are Rory Sabbatini (sixth), Corey Pavin (seventh), Tim Herron (eighth) and Tim Clark (ninth).
Clark would serve as a sensible option in two-man games unless you're holding off for the Travelers Championship or Wyndham Championship. However, he hasn't banked more money in any other tournament he hasn't won than at Colonial. He's also flashed enough form this season to warrant the spot.
Last week: Jason Day; T27; $46,565.00
Overall Record: 19-for-21
Top 5s: 5
Top 10s: 10
Top 25s: 14
Missed Cuts: 2
PGATOUR.COM introduces you to the University of Washington men's golf team as they make a run for their first national championship, led by No. 1-ranked amateur senior Chris Williams. The behind-the-scenes journey provides a rare glimpse into the highly competitive world of collegiate golf, where Washington appears poised to make some noise in the postseason.
The fifth hole at Colonial consistently ranks among the 50 toughest holes on TOUR. (Martin/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
It was in 1941 that Colonial Country Club’s fifth hole was dubbed “Death Valley,” traced to an account of U.S. Open golfers staggering away from the punishment being doled out that year alongside the Trinity River.
More than seven decades later, better players and better equipment have done little to weaken the dogleg’s moniker.
“It’s just brutal,” said David Toms, who captured the Crowne Plaza Invitational two years ago.
Said Masters champion Adam Scott: “If you do challenge anything and go wrong, then there is a big number waiting to happen.”
No. 5 -- the final stretch of Colonial’s “Horrible Horseshoe” -- consistently ranks among the PGA TOUR’s 50 toughest holes in any given season. It was 33rd a year ago, with golfers unable to save par 133 times in 396 plays.
Put another way, one of every three attempts went for bogey or worse.’
“The penalty is quite severe on this hole,” said Scott, for whom Colonial is the only Texas stop he hasn’t managed to win.
Listed at 481 yards, No. 5 presents one of the more claustrophobic tee shots on the TOUR. The Trinity River runs just behind trees to the right of the hole, serving as one of the course’s boundaries.
To the left, meanwhile, is a big ditch that’s just as apt to swallow wayward tee shots. In the prevailing winds, you’ll likely have to start your tee shot over the majestic oaks left of the fairway.
“You’ve got to hit a fade off the tee and the fairway slopes right-to-left,” said reigning champion Zach Johnson. “There is junk right, and you don't want to miss it left. You don't want to be in the rough. Your second shot is no bargain there, either.”
It’s another long, narrow approach to the green, which is well guarded by bunkers and trees.
Though most pros would be happy to walk away from No.5 with par for four consecutive days, Jason Dufner turned it to his advantage to keep the pressure on Johnson last year. Dufner birdied No.5 three times during the week, including the final round.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- John Peterson, the Web.com Tour regular playing on a sponsor's exemption at this week's Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, has a familiarity with the course that no one else in the field can match.
His grandfather was a member at Colonial for 53 years, and when John's family moved from Baton Rouge, La., back to Fort Worth -- where John was born -- his grandfather took the youngster to play Colonial for the first time.
Since then, Peterson figures he's played Colonial "400 or 500 times."
"I kind of learned how to play out here," he said.
But will that give him an advantage this week?
Peterson has never played Colonial in PGA TOUR conditions and set-up. And he isn't that familiar with its most recent changes from four years ago. Since going off to college at LSU -- where he was a three-time All-American -- Peterson's visits to Colonial have been limited.
"I think I snuck on a year and a half ago with a member," he said.
But he does have a specific gameplan for this week, especially off the tee: Hit driver whenever possible. During Monday's pro-am, he used driver on 13 of the 14 driving holes, including the 408-yard 10th hole. The only time he opted for 3-wood was at the 389-yard par-4 second.
"I haven't seen a guy hit a driver on 10 in a long time out here," he said. "... I will probably hit more drivers than most guys out here because of my comfort level on most of these tees."
Thanks to his fourth-place finish at last year's U.S. Open, Peterson already has a spot locked up for Merion next month. He'd love nothing more than to play well this week and grab some momentum for another U.S. Open run.
"I just feel my comfort level is going to be pretty high (this week)," Peterson said, "and I have a good chance of playing well out here because I played here so much."
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Corey Pavin had to decide: Play one of his favorite courses or chase after his first major win on the Champions Tour.
The decision-making process was not a lengthy one. He'll be teeing it up for the 30th consecutive year at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial this week. The Senior PGA Championship will have to wait.
"I would rather be here than there," Pavin said. "It's as simple as that."
The 53-year-old Pavin is a Champions Tour regular and would love to win one of its majors, but he's won twice at Colonial and it continues to be one of the few courses on the PGA TOUR in which he feels he has a chance to win.
Pavin tied for 31st last year and three years ago, after turning 50, he tied for seventh, shooting 67 or lower in each round. In his 29 previous appearances at Colonial, he's missed the cut just four times.
"I feel like I can compete on this golf course," he said. "... I know it pretty well."
Short hitters can thrive at Colonial -- witness defending champ Zach Johnson, like Pavin a two-time Crowne Plaza winner.
When Pavin won for the first time in 1985, the course measured 7,096 yards. When he won again in 1996, the course was actually shorter -- 7,010 yards.
Even though Colonial was lengthened in 2009 to 7,204 yards, Pavin still feels confident in his chances. There isn't much that he doesn't know about the 18-hole layout.
"For the most part, it's the same golf course it's always been," Pavin said. "It's a fabulous testament to this golf course that it's held up over time with all of the equipment changes and things like that. It still can be quite a tough test out here.
"You don't have to build a course 7,600 yards to make it hard."
Our experts have made their selections for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and now it's time for you to make yours.
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DALLAS – With gusting Dallas winds, blind shots and partial sight lines to navigate, PGA TOUR star Rickie Fowler and fellow pro Colt Knost traversed urban hazards as part of a precise shot-making challenge: Red Bull Off Course. The narrow fairway at Victory Plaza proved challenging as Fowler and Knost attempted to nail a hole-in-one onto a custom-built, Texas-shaped green.
The name of the game was to see who could hit it closest to the pin, while egged on by special guests and former Dallas Stars hockey player Marty Turco and Kip Brennan. The two contestants strolled out to the sidewalk and warmed up with an 80-yard lob wedge, followed by 115-yard gap wedge from across the street and onto the AT&T Plaza green. Fowler started off slowly in these practice rounds, while Knost consistently landed on the green.
Then the two players jumped into a golf cart and drove around the block to an adjacent 3rd-floor parking structure for the main round. From there, they attempted blind shots from 140 yards that to had fly over a 6-story building or be sliced left-to-right to land softly on the Victory Plaza green. With golf balls flying over the heads of hundreds of spectators, Fowler first jumped on the MIC to let the fans know they “should probably duck.”
Fowler and Knost each hit 14 shots a piece in the finale, starting off slowly until they honed in on the target. With the winds causing havoc, Knost consistently was able to land around the nearby bunkers, but couldn’t hit the green. He also hit a few balls onto the nearby roofs that were never seen again. On Fowler’s fourth attempt, he nailed the green, causing a roar from the crowd. On his sixth shot, he landed 30 inches from the hole, which proved to be tough to beat and led Fowler to be crowned the Red Bull Off Course champion, red jacket and all.
"I have done some crazy stuff with Red Bull, but this is by far the craziest," said Rickie Fowler. "I got some good wedge practice in today. I won't see a harder shot in the tourney this week at Colonial."
The event served as a warm-up to sharpen Fowler’s and Knost’s games as they ready to play the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club.
This was Fowler’s first urban adventure in Texas, and is a continuation of his Red Bull Off Course escapades in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Augusta and Los Angeles over the past few years. Catch his D.C. hole-in-one here.
The greens at Colonial Country Club are expected to be firm and fast this week. (Martin/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Course preparation is all about balance for Scott Ebers, which may explain why Colonial Country Club’s superintendent isn’t all that concerned that rough isn’t thriving or uniform at this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational.
As with other recent stops, the unusually cool spring has hindered bermudagrass growth at the longest-tenured regular stop on the PGA TOUR. But what’s troublesome for bermuda has been a boon for the bentgrass greens.
“That’s always one of the challenges at a mixed-grass golf course like we are,” Ebers said. “We’re trying to keep the bentgrass happy, but as it gets warmer the bermudagrass gets happy.
“Rarely, if ever, are they both wonderful. There’s a range in there where one is going one direction and the other is going the other way. But the cool spring really helped the greens out. They had a very good start because it’s been cooler.”
It’s far better, Ebers said, than some editions of the Invitational where the thermometer approached 100 degrees and crews were challenged to keep the greens from wilting.
“We’ve had some really rough ones,” he said, “where we’ve had to really work.”
With optimum growing conditions for the past 10 days, Colonial’s rough is expected to reach the prescribed 3 inches in many areas. In general, though, the median length is likely to be about a half-inch lower.
In addition to the cool spring, other factors come into play such as shade, high traffic and other grasses that have mixed in with the bermuda over the course of decades.
“It’s kind of a hodgepodge,” Ebers said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be something where players say, ‘My gosh, there’s absolutely no rough at all.’ Like most years, there’s a little rub of the green in where you miss and what kind of rough you find.”
No matter what the conditions, he added, the byproduct ends up being something of a mixed bag. Shorter rough would encourage low scoring – but firmer greens could neutralize that to a certain extent.
The strong thunderstorms that brought deadly tornadoes to Oklahoma are forecast to reach down into Texas today, so it could be an anxious day for Ebers and his men. If they can avoid damage, the rest of the week calls only for isolated storms during Thursday’s opening round.