By Dave Shedloski
From Byron Nelson to Ben Hogan. From Dallas to Fort Worth. There’s nothing like this two-week stop in the heart of Texas, with the shortest travel hop between starts.
This week the PGA TOUR makes its annual visit to storied Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth for the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational. The event welcomes a new sponsor and the same old fantastic test of golf, one that has challenged players since the course first hosted a TOUR event in 1946. Hogan won the inaugural and the following year as well, and he won back to back again in 1952-53.
No one else has ever won consecutive titles. The ghost of Hogan is tough to beat, which is the task ahead of Chris Kirk, the defending champion, who became the first man to win the Ben Hogan Award (2007) for amateur excellence and the tournament at Colonial. Of course, it’s more than just the 7,204-yard, par-70 layout that he has to contend with. A fine field featuring nine of the top 30 in the world will be competing. That includes homegrown world No. 2 Jordan Spieth and No. 7 Adam Scott, a past winner who holds the distinction of having won all four Texas events in his career.
CBS Sports on-course reporter Dottie Pepper focuses her “Pep Talk” feature this week on Ben Hogan and Colonial founder Marvin Leonard. She spent a few minutes with us discussing what to expect in Fort Worth.
Explain the charm and challenge of Colonial Country Club.
It all starts with Ben Hogan, the Wall of Champions, the great history of the place. Then, when it comes to the golf course, it’s just old-fashioned golf, a wonderful test of skill. Keep it in play. The rough is extraordinarily high and thick, so it doesn’t necessarily favor a bomber, not that it ever did.
How tough is it to be Jordan Spieth right now with the finishes last week and at the Masters and playing back-to-back weeks in his hometown area?
When you don’t have your best stuff and everyone is waiting for you to come home after the year you had last year, it’s darn tough. What’s going on with his golf swing is lethal. His lines aren’t good. His shoulders are closed and his feet look open, so he’s playing from a position of compensation, and he admits he’s not comfortable. It’s time to go back to basics, but he has to do it under the greatest of microscopes, and that’s really hard.
Now his spotlight is burning brighter, too, and his weeks are running out (to earn his PGA TOUR card). He’s had a few weeks of struggling. It’s hard out there. But he’s going to a golf course where you can’t swing from your heels. [You] have to play from point A to point B, which is a lot like Harbour Town, where he played so well.
How great is this stretch of golf, when tournaments are played remembering Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, and then next week having Jack Nicklaus as host?
It’s a pretty great stretch. And all very different, different golf courses. I think there’s a little bit of a letdown after The Players and everyone is looking forward to the next major, the U.S. Open at Oakmont. But right now we’re in one of the best stretches of the year, in my opinion. A great three-pack.
What would you like to talk about that we haven’t touched on looking ahead?
The “Horrible Horseshoe” is always part of the story at Colonial. Whoever plays well in the stretch of holes (3-4-5) usually is going to be around at the end, or very close. Good form has paid off at Colonial in the past. You have to be on top of your game.
How about a look at the field? Who are you considering for your favorites and dark horses?
Matt Kuchar. Four of his last six starts have been top 10s. It’s kind of hard not to look at Adam Scott. Has been playing great. This is the place where he first went to No. 1 in the world. For dark horses, Colt Knost has been playing some good golf, and he’s another local player. I think Geoff Ogilvy is due. Freddie Jacobson seems healthy, and he’s getting into contention and knocking on the door.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.