What will it take to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational?
IT'S all about accuracy this week, both off the tee and from the fairway at Colonial.
You need to avoid the fairway bunkers and find the right portion of the fairways to attack the small greens.
There a number of doglegged holes so players who can shape the ball both ways prosper. Length of the tee is almost irrelevant but good scrambling is vital.
As an indication of the sort of game required, four of the last five winners have ranked inside the top 10 for greens hit and no winner over that period has ranked worse than 18th for scrambling.
Is there an identikit winner?
With length unimportant and accuracy key this is a venue where the older pros do very well.
Sergio Garcia, way back in 2001, is the last player under the age of 30 to win and seven of the last 15 winners have been aged 40 or over.
This is an event the vets can't wait for and the likes of Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and David Frost have chosen to play here instead of appearing in the PGA Championship on the Champions Tour.
In the 65-year history at Colonial, only eight winners were winning their first PGA Tour event here. We've had a number of breakthrough winners on the PGA Tour this season but don't expect one this week.
Experience of the course is important and the average number of event starts the winners have had before bagging the title is 8.22.
A fast start is usually required at Colonial. Rory Sabbatini (in 2007) is the only winner this century to be any further than four shots off the lead after round one and three of the last four winners were leading or co-leading after the first 18 holes.
The last four third-round leaders have all been beaten but 2009 winner, Steve Stricker, only trailed Tim Clark by two strokes after 54 holes and the last three winners were all just one behind with a round to go.
In the eight years before Stricker, every winner had either led or co-led after three rounds so don't be in a rush to oppose the front-runners.
It's tight at the top and for my money, the two market leaders are the wrong way round. Current favourite Charl Schwartzel comes here fresh from an excellent third at last week's Byron Nelson but this will be his first sighting of Colonial and as highlighted above, that's quite a handicap, whereas second best, Zach Johnson, knows the place like the back of his hand.
With recent Colonial form figures that read 9-1-4-1, Zach's 72 in windy conditions on day four last year was the first time he failed to break the par of 70 in 16 spins around the track and for my money, arriving as he does, after a top-20 finish at the Players Championship last time out, he's the man to beat.
Third best Matt Kuchar doesn't winner anywhere near as often as he should and with just one top-10 finish in six starts here he makes little appeal.
Jason Dufner was in the form of his life when he led here with a round to go 12 months ago before finishing runner-up to Zach. Prior to that he'd missed the cut twice and finished tied 59th on his only other appearances so I'm inclined to think last year may have been a one off and he too is readily dismissed.
Having already backed quite a few at the BMW PGA Championship the plan here was to take it easy before the off and get more involved in running – concentrating my efforts on the early pace-setters.
Up until this morning Ben Crane and Brian Gay were the only players I'd backed but then the fixed odds market went up and I was like a kid in a sweet shop!
I was prepared to pass on Johnson before the get-go at 16.0 but I felt 19.0 (a price that's still available at the time of writing) was just too big to resist. And I also backed Martin Laird and John Huh at 46.0 and 51.0 respectfully in the fixed odds market.
I'd managed to get a small amount matched at 55.0 on Laird early on Monday and I was kicking myself for not taking the 50.0 available when I had the chance. He's already won in Texas this year, at the Valero Texas Open, has two top-10 finishes from two starts here and he finished tied fifth last time out at the Players.
Laird was a borderline play at just 46.0 if I'm honest and I'm still not sure I've done the right thing taking just 51.0 about Huh but did I have a choice?
I backed him last week at 130.0, when he finished tied eighth at the Byron Nelson, and at 110.0 on debut here last year when he finished tied fifth.
I know I haven't got a value price about him this week, having missed the 60.0 available early on, but given how I'd feel if he won unbacked, I couldn't leave him out once he was chalked up at 51.0.
Ben Crane has a solid record in his home state of Texas and he has a fine record at this event in particular, with four top-10s (three top-fives) in his last six starts. I've often played Ben in this one and at odds of 55.0 I was happy to do so again this time around.
And finally I've thrown a few pounds at Brian Gay again. He was runner-up here way back in 2001 so he can play Colonial and at odds of 170.0 I'm not risking much to win a lot.
Zach Johnson @ 19.0 (Fixed Odds)
Martin Laird @ 46.0 (Fixed Odds)
John Huh @ 51.0 (Fixed Odds)
Ben Crane @ 55.0
Brian Gay @ 170.0