The Crowne Plaza Invitational, as the name suggests is one of five events on the PGA Tour given “Invitational status” meaning a reduced field of 125 players, including two players who will be given a spot in the field as the “champions choice”. The two players who will be in the field this week, under that category are Jeff Curl, the son of former champion Rod Curl, who won here in 1974 and Kevin Tway.
History can be made this week, as the new World No.1, Adam Scott can become the first player to complete the “Texas Grand Slam”. This comes about as Scott has won the Shell Houston Open (2007), the HP Byron Nelson (2008) and the Valero Texas Open (2010). It would take a brave man to argue that Scott is the best player, ability-wise in the field, but in two appearances at Colonial, he has finished 64th (2009) and 65th (2011), so he will need to improve a lot on previous showings to get the win this week.
Colonial Country Club is a 7,204 yards, Par 70 that will test a players accuracy more than anything else, and looking back at the winners list, that rings true. The last five winners of this event are, Boo Weekley, Zach Johnson x2, David Toms and Steve Stricker, all of whom are known for their accuracy. Phil Mickelson has won here on two occasions, most recently in 2008 and whilst he’s not always the most accurate off the tee, he is superb with his wedges, meaning great approach shots and strong scrambling.
All in all, I would favour accuracy over length every time here, and the main stats I’ll be looking at this week are Driving Accuracy, Greens in Regulation, and Scrambling. These greens aren’t the biggest, so you’ll want to be in good shape off the tee in order to attack them, and missing them will be costly if you don’t get up and down, hence the interest in the Scrambling stat. Putting is always important, but instead of getting hung up on a player’s putting over the season, I am happy to take a chance that their putter will warm up this week, if they fit the bill otherwise.
The 54-hole leader has failed to convert in the last five renewals of this event, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the winner come from behind once again, in familiar fashion.
Another interesting point this week is that the winners of this event, tend to already have a win on the PGA Tour under their belt, and also some course form. Sergio Garcia was one exception to this rule, as he picked up his first win on the PGA Tour here, but he had already won two times on the European Tour at this stage though.
Looking back, it does look like you need to of experienced winning before, in order to get the job done here at Colonial, proving what a tough event this is to win. Multiple starts at this course is desirable, as all of the winners in the last decade have had more than one look at this course before getting their win here.
This is a great event, with a strong field and although it runs alongside one of may favourite events of the year, the BMW PGA Championship it is one I do enjoy. With Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson all pegging it up this week, there should be some good prices available, if you want to take those on.
Here are my selections for the 2014 Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Zach Johnson 16/1 (Coral & StanJames) 2pts e/w: The most obvious bet in golf this week, Zach Johnson at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
In eight appearances at this course, Johnson has never missed the cut and his form figures in his last five starts at Colonial are insane. After coming 3rd last year, his last five starts read, 3-1-4-1-9, and I cannot think of any reason why he won’t contend again this year.
I tipped Johnson at the Players Championship two weeks ago, and he finished a solid 26th, and could probably of finished a whole lot better. He got off to a fast start, but failed to capitalise and whilst he might have expected better, it wasn’t to be. After a week off, Johnson should be more than ready to continue his ridiculously good form at this event.
Being a test of accuracy, there is no surprise that Johnson excels here, as he currently ranks 5th in Driving Accuracy, and 35th in Greens in regulation, standard numbers for him.
There’s not much more that you can say about his chances this week, he’s 16/1 due to a slightly stronger field this year, and I fully expect him to at the very least finish in the top-5 once again. A win this week, would see Johnson become only the second player to win at Colonial more than twice, the only other person to do so – Ben Hogan
Chris Kirk 45/1 (Betfred & SportingBet) 1.5pts e/w: Chris Kirk has been the model of consistency this season, not missing a single cut in this 2013-14 wraparound season, and with a win in that time as well, he is having a season to remember.
Kirk, who has finished inside the top-25 in 7 of his 16 events, currently sits 8th in the FedEx Cup rankings, mainly thanks to his win at the McGladrey Classic, and his runner-up finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii, earlier in the season and I can see him finishing at the top of the leaderboard again this week.
In four visits to Colonial, Kirk has missed one cut, on his course debut in 2008 and otherwise has finished inside the top-35 on all three occasions. Last year was actually his worst finish, when making the weekend, and hopefully he improves on that this time around. If 35th is your worst finish in your last three starts you know you’re doing something right, and his 5th place finish in 2012, and 16th place finish in 2011 prove that.
He shot the second best round of the week, in round 4 back in 2012, when the leaders were struggling he shot 65, bettered only by eventual winner Zach Johnson’s opening round of 64. He wasn’t in contention at any stage, as he was seven shots behind Johnson by the end of the event, even after beating him by seven shots on the last day.
I do think that will change this week, he has matured as a golfer since getting his 2nd PGA Tour win back in November, and should he start quicker and get himself in contention going into the weekend, I fully expect him to perform well.
Considering his course and season form, he looks good value at 45/1 and hopefully he will build on his T13 place finish last time out, at the Players Championship.
Boo Weekley 60/1 (Bet365) 1pt e/w: When accuracy is the focus of the week, Boo Weekley should always be considered, especially in an event he won last year.
Weekley is one of the best ball-strikers on Tour, year in, year out and if he has a good week with the putter, it doesn’t normally matter where he is, he can contend. He currently ranks 2nd in Ball Striking, thanks to being 4th in Greens in regulation, and 12th in Total Driving. Total Driving includes distance, so looking at just his Driving Accuracy he currently ranks 7th on Tour.
Thanks to a final round 66 last year, Weekley managed to leapfrog 54-hole leader Matt Kuchar to claim the Crowne Plaza Invitational, by one stroke. He successfully defended his RBC Heritage, winning in 2007 and 2008 and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he did the same in this event this year.
He hasn’t been in great form in 2014, but that could well be due to his four-week break at the end of January, as he recovered from a knee injury. He had not finished better than T29 until last week, when he finished T5 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
His finish last week is very promising, and although I don’t think confidence is a problem for Weekley (he’s very laid back) it can only benefit him, as he tries to win back-to-back here at Colonial.
I couldn’t ignore the 60/1, mainly due to his showing last week, but his form at the course reads 1-31-55-9-mc and he looks another solid pick this week.
Harris English 66/1 (Ladbrokes & StanJames) 1pt e/w: Harris English has looked out of sorts, since making his Masters debut last month, but I am sure he will turn it around soon enough, and he’s a good price to do just that this week.
Accuracy isn’t exactly English’ strong point, as he currently ranks 115th in Driving Accuracy, but despite his low ranking in that category he is 3rd in Greens in regulation, which is quite amazing considering the amount of times he plays from the rough.
He has made two starts here at Colonial, with two very contrasting results. On his debut here, in 2012, English managed to impress finishing in a tie for 5th, but he failed to follow that good showing up in 2013, as he failed to make the cut.
The 5th place finish on his debut is very promising, and particularly eye-catching, as it normally takes a couple of visits for most players to get the feel of the course. After opening with a 65 and closing with a 67, like the aforementioned Chris Kirk, he finished seven shots shy of winner Zach Johnson.
He only needed to perform slightly better over the Friday/Saturday that week, to really put himself in the picture but it wasn’t to be. He is a better player this time around than he was in both of his starts here, and if it wasn’t for his recent lack of form, I am sure he would have been a much shorter price.
With two wins in 2013, English matured greatly as a player, and if he is to perform at Colonial this year, like he has already proved he can once, I expect him to be right in the mix. His recent form is a massive negative against his name this week, but over the season he has been one of the better players on Tour (7th in FedEx Cup rankings) so I do think it’s only a matter of time before he steadies the ship again. His price fairly reflects his form, but 66/1 was far too tempting this week.
Total points staked on the PGA Tour this week: 11
Total points staked this week (inc European Tour): 23
Profit/Loss for 2014: + 79.91
This a great event with a stronger field this year, and for that reason there are some decent price about. There are always a few players at three-figures that you can make a case for, and the way this season has gone it would be no surprise to see another big-odds winner, however this week I have chosen to side with four very solid players at relatively shorter prices.
As ever, if you have any feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact on Twitter @TJacobsGolf.