Last week saw yet another 1st time winner on the PGA Tour, this time in the form of South Korean Sang Moon-Bae. Bae has been regarded as one of the game’s most natural talents, but at 26 he was still yet to prove that in the U.S despite winning 11 titles around the world. After a fantastic performance on the final day, coupled with Keegan Bradley struggling, Bae managed to get the job done and many believe this might just be the start. However when you look, Keegan Bradley, Bae’s playing partner on the final day is the same age (26) and already has 3 PGA wins and a major to his name, so Bae still has a lot to prove. Bradley never really got going after his 1st round 60 which saw him clear at the top at -10, and he will no doubt be disappointed he couldn’t pick up his 4th Tour win and his 2nd Byron Nelson title. All in all Bae still has plenty of time to prove himself, with this being his 2nd season on Tour and just his 43rd start, so we will have to wait and see what he can do now he’s got over the first hurdle.
On to this week and we are in Fort Worth, Texas for the Crowne Plaza Invitational where only 125 players will take the field due to it’s “invitational” status given to only 5 events by the PGA Tour. Something that is different with this tournament compared to others is it’s unique rule that the champion from the previous year can pick two young players, who they feel are deserving of a place in the field, when they would otherwise be ineligible, this is known as the “Champion’s Choice” and Zach Johnson has that privilege this week, due to his win in 2012. Zach Johnson is one of the players that has won the Crowne Plaza on multiple occasions, firstly in 2010 and again in 2012, so he will certainly look to be in contention again. He followed up his win in 2010, with a 4th in 2011, so his last three visits to Colonial have resulted in finishes of, Win, 4th, Win, pretty impressive. Before he got his first win he also finished T9 in 2009 so to say he likes this tournament is an understatement. He’s not in the best of form at the moment, but you obviously cannot rule him out and he comes in at 2nd in the betting at 16/1, just behind market leader Charl Schwartzel 14/1.
An interesting thing to note when looking for a winner in this event is that, since Phil Mickelson won in 2000 every winner of this event has finished T6 or better, with the exclusion of Tim Herron who has finished T11 at Augusta, so it’s fair to say that players who do well at one of the events, seems to play well at the other, so looking at players who have placed at the Masters might be a good idea. It’s also worth noting that you must of produced a good showing at the course before winning it, each player has had a good performance before getting their win. The Masters link is in no way down to similarity in length, just an observation that previous winners of this event have also performed well at the Masters, with both Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson both winning it in recent times. Over the last four years the event has been won by someone coming from behind on the last day, however before this, the event was won seven times consecutively by the 54-hole leader, so it’s hard to work out how the winner will go about their business. One player who will ne looking to take advantage of his consistency here is Matt Kuchar who has not missed the cut in six starts, finishing a best T9 in 2008, and he will be one to watch this week. Here’s a bit more info on how the course sets up and what the defending champion had to do to win here in Texas.
The Course: Colonial Country Club, 7,204 yards, par 70. The course itself is popular among the players, with it being ranked in the top 5 of the players favourite courses in 2012. Wedge play and putting are a big part of this event, as you can imagine with it being a relatively short course. Accuracy of the tee is also as important as ever and won’t work in favour of players who can’t find the fairway. Of course every week I find myself mentioning these areas, as it is the way you score, but sometimes it is important to emphasise that length off the tee isn’t always an advantage and that certainly rings true here. Look to players who are leading in terms of approach play and putting and you can definitely keep them in mind this week.
Defending Champion: Zach Johnson. Johnson won here at Colonial for the 2nd time in three years, after winning it for the first time in 2010. As mentioned previously Johnson plays this course incredibly well, and this is no coincidence, this is down to the course suiting his game. It is no secret that Johnson doesn’t lead the way, but up until this year his accuracy and short game has been known as one of the best, highlighted at this tournament especially. Johnson finished 3rd in Strokes-Gained Putting last year, 26th in Driving Accuracy and 37th in Greens in Regulation, all of which that back up what has been said above in terms of how this can be won. He was 52nd in Driving Distance, which again supports the claim that distance off the tee isn’t going to give you a clear advantage this week. Zach’s best finish so far this season is his T19 at the Players’ Championship and he will certainly be hoping to turn his season around at a course he loves. Despite his recent struggles he is still 36th in Driving Accuracy, 7th in Greens in Regulation between 75-100 yards, he’s 7th inside of 100 yards and these three statistics should keep him positive for the week ahead.
With all of this in mind, many players have caught my eye, with a mixture of players, coming from both current form and past course form alike. I will as ever be bringing you four selections, and I will be doing the same for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth later this week. I am attending the event on Sunday, and with it being the only event held in England I cannot wait to do my preview, which should be up Tuesday evening. Here’s my selections for the 2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Jim Furyk 25/1 (General) 3pts e/w: Furyk is a player that has the ability to play on most courses, you have to, to be able to amass over $53 million in career earnings, whilst winning 16 PGA Tour titles in the process. You have to go back to 1995 to find Furyk’s first win at the Las Vegas Invitational and then fast forward to 2010 where he picked up a season best 3 wins. However he has not won since then, and this will no doubt frustrate Furyk and he will look to change his fortunes here in Colonial. His form here suggests he could do just that, with his last four attempts at the course ending in finishes of, 4, T31, cut, T9. Although he has that missed cut, you can say with some confidence that Furyk enjoys this track, and going back to 2007, Furyk finished a best 2nd place, so he has come close on more than one occasion. As for this year, Furyk has two top 10s, (T3, T7) and two top 25’s (T13, T25) with the the 25th coming at Augusta. He did make it into the second of the Accenture matchplay as well which goes down as a T17 so his form looks rather impressive in terms of numbers. He did miss the cut last time out, at the Players’ Championship, but hopefully he can rectify that in style, with a win here at the Crowne Plaza. He is 7th on Tour in Driving Accuracy, already noted as a key stat this week, and hopefully he can build even further on that on his way to victory. At 25/1 I thought he was value at the head of the betting and I expect him to go well once again.
Ben Crane 40/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Crane is a player that I left out for the Players’ Championship, after being on my short list, and this time around he makes the cut. His form figures at colonial over the last four visits are pretty good and his current form is fairly good as well. He recently finished T8 at the Players’ Championship and T4 at the Shell Houston Open, two of the bigger events of the season so far. This alongside his course form at Colonial is what’s made me side with him at 40/1. His last four attempts here have resulted in, T10, Cut, T3 and T46. With the two high finishes included, with the T10 last being just last season, I feel he’ll be confident going into this week and hopefully he can him himself back in the winners circle. He’s won four times on the PGA Tour, however his last win came in 2011, so he’ll be keen to show what he can do once again.
Tim Clark 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Tim Clark is not normally a player I have on my mind each week, but this week was one where I felt, that if I’m going to back him at all this season, this is where it’s going to be and I shall explain why. Apart from the fact that he is 3rd in Driving Accuracy, and finishing T11 at the Masters, Clark is also a big fan of this course. His last four starts have seen him finish, T19, T56, P2,T2. P2 means he lost to play off, which he lost in 2009 to Steve Stricker, just one year after finishing 2nd in 2008. So he has come close on more than one occasion, and with him bouncing back from a disappointing T56 in 2010, with a T19 in 2012, you feel he may look forward to this week yet again. He’s 7th in approaches from 75-100 yards and 6th in 50-75 yards so his short game seems pretty dialled in and with him beng T36 in Total Putting you feel he may be in for another big finish here, at a course he clearly loves. Although he missed the cut at the Players’ last time out I still see him as good value at 50/1 and I hope he can go close once again.
Roberto Castro 175/1 (BoyleSports) 1pt e/w: Castro has had an interesting start to the season, highlighted by his opening round of -9 at the Players Championship, however eventually he dropped back, finishing T19, which at the start of the week wood of been considered extremely impressive. As well as that finish two weeks ago, he also finished T16 at the Waste Management, T24 in Puerto Rico and T21 at the Tampa Bay Championship one week later. If he can get a hold on his putting this week, I feel he could go extremely well, considering he’s 16th in Driving Accuracy and 28th in Greens in Regulation, two things that are important here at Colonial. He finished T19 here in 2012 and he will look to build on his fairly good start to the season at a course he has already played well at. At 175/1 I feel he is a big price considering he fits the bill in terms of stats and past performance and hopefully he can put four consistent rounds together.
Total points staked on PGA Tour this week: 12
Total points staked this week (inc PGA Tour): TBC
Profit/Loss for 2013: +42
That concludes my tips for the Crowne Plaza Invitational, and I hope you get involved this week. With many of the top players on Tour this season out of the field, it gives a chance for players to kick start their season, and I expect the players above to do just that. With all of Team Europe from Medinah playing at Wentworth this week I am really looking forward to the European Tour this week and my preview for that is to follow closely, so keep an eye out for that.