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.

In-Play Tactics

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.

Market Leaders

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.

Selections

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.

Pre-Event Selections

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

Milesey (Betfair)

1 Comment
  1. Milesey 7 years ago

    Punters looking for an angle in to this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial immediately have their attentions turned to second favourite Zach Johnson.

    The 2007 Masters champion has an outstanding record at the venue, winning on two occasions (2012 and 2010) and recording a further top-5 (2011) and top-10 (2009) finish in the last four renewals.

    But crucially, all but one of those performances came on the back of a decent month prior to this event. Last year Johnson had just finished second at the RBC Heritage and The Players prior to winning here. The year before he’d just finished sixth at the Wells Fargo and 12th at The Players, while in 2009 he had a third place finish and a win to his name leading up to this tournament.

    Leading up to this year’s defence, Johnson is in no form whatsoever – just two top-20 finishes (18th and 19th) to his name are all he has to show from 12 outings on the PGA Tour this season, albeit one of those came last time out at The Players.

    Many will argue that Johnson’s top-20 finish at The Players is a sign that he’s on his way back to his best – great timing for an event that he loves to play if you like – and his form is very similar to what he showed leading up to his victory here in 2010, but three years ago he was four times the price he is to win this week.

    True, he definitely deserves his place towards the head of the market, but before being tempted to back him at 17.0 I’d have liked to have seen him show more sparkle leading up to this week.

    So while I disagree with The Punter regarding Johnson, I’m in complete agreement about two of Steve’s other picks – Ben Crane and John Huh – while I also give a chance to Ryan Palmer and Charlie Wi this week.

    Huh (41.0) had a scattering of top-30 finishes mixed in with five missed cuts to show for his efforts this season, until he turned up at Augusta. He would go on to finish in a tie for 11th at the Masters which given the strength of the field was a very creditable effort as well as being out of the blue. And he has since shown that he remains in decent form with a top-10 finish at last week’s Byron Nelson Championship.

    Last year Huh made his debut in this event, and finished in a very encouraging tie for fifth. If he can continue the form that he has shown in recent weeks, then hopefully he can prove that last year’s debut performance here was no fluke.

    Crane (36.0) endured a slow start to his season with four missed cuts in his first six events but then bounced back at huge odds to finish in a tie for fourth at the Shell Houston Open – Texas being a favourable place for him to play his best golf it seems.

    He then went on to record a top-10 finish at The Players a fortnight ago, which augers very well now that he’s back in his home state given that he has finished in the top five at Colonial in three of the last five years.

    Palmer started 2013 in great fashion, recording two top-six finishes within the space of three weeks, but then went completely off the boil for a few months. He bounced back with a highly emotional top-five finish at The Players a fortnight ago and appeared to carry that form forward to the Byron Nelson last week where he was bang in contention at the halfway stage.

    Weekend rounds of 73 and 73 sent him tumbling down the pack but I wouldn’t write Palmer off yet, especially given that he finished in the top five here last year.

    Finally a small chance is given to loveable Charlie Wi. He’s had a poor season admittedly, but he makes the cut more often than not and has some decent course form to his name here including a runner-up finish in 2011.

    Recommended Bets (all e/w – 1/4 Odds 1,2,3,4,5)

    Back John Huh @ 41.0
    Back Ben Crane @ 36.0
    Back Ryan Palmer @ 46.0
    Back Charlie Wi @ 151.0

    Milesey

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