Colonial Forecast: Sunny with a Chance of Spieth

Jordan Spieth is among those in the field for this year’s Fort Worth Invitational (Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler)

By Rick Press and Jay Betsill

The 2018 Fort Worth Invitational is ready for its close-up, even though there were moments this year when it seemed as if Colonial Country Club’s venerable golf tournament might be fading away.

When your title sponsor pulls out mid-year, it tends to create some drama and doubt about the future.

But here it is, the final weekend in May, and Colonial is standing tall as it always does — ready to showcase the top golfers in the world, against a backdrop of 72 years of Fort Worth tradition.

For the 2018 edition of Colonial, here are 10 things you ought to know:

  1. Jordan Rules: Dallas native Jordan Spieth is THE top draw at the 2018 Fort Worth Invitational, and not just because he’s a local. At only 24 years old, Spieth has 12 titles, including three majors, and he is the PGA Tour’s most dynamic personality (who cares about that Tiger Woods fella, who hasn’t played in Fort Worth since 1997). Colonial is also one of Spieth’s favorite courses; he has four top 10 finishes at Hogan’s Alley in five starts, including a win in 2016 that featured a back nine for the ages.But Jordan comes into Colonial hoping to vanquish some putting demons. He ranks 175th on tour from inside 10 feet, a distance he was automatic from not too long ago. Expect the largest galleries to be following Spieth, and perhaps they can will him to a second plaid jacket as he and caddie Michael Greller try to crack the subtle contours of Colonial’s greens and get back in the winner’s circle.
  2. Top guns and fan favorites: Despite being sandwiched between The Players Championship and The U.S. Open on the PGA Tour schedule, Colonial still manages to attract a star-studded lineup. Four of the top six players in the world are in Fort Worth: Spieth (No. 3), Jon Rahm (4), Justin Rose (5) and Rickie Fowler (6). Colonial also has the last two winners on tour: Webb Simpson, who ran away with The Players two weeks ago, and 21-year-old rookie Aaron Wise, who won his first title at the newly relocated AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest in Dallas last week.

The marquee groups to watch are:

Spieth, defending champ Kevin Kisner and 2009 champ Steve Sticker (9:06 a.m. Thurs.; 2:06 p.m Fri.)

Rahm, Fowler and Byron DeChambeau (8:55 a.m. Thursday, 1:55 p.m. Friday)

Wise, Rose and two-time Colonial champion Zach Johnson (1:55 p.m. Thurs.; 8:55 a.m. Fri.)

Simpson, Brooks Koepka and 2013 Colonial champ Adam Scott (2:06 p.m. Thurs; 9:06 a.m. Fri.)

More notables and fan favorites include: Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker and last year’s PGA rookie of the year Xander Schauffele.

      3. Local boys: J.J. Henry, Martin Piller, 2007 Colonial champion Rory Sabbatini, Chad Campbell, Martin Flores and former SMU standout Bryson DeChambeau will all have large followings with the DFW golf fans, but Colonial member Ryan Palmer always brings an extra buzz to this event. It’s safe to say that winning at Colonial Country Club would be right up there with a major victory for the Colleyville resident who had a front row seat for Spieth’s 2016 victory that included the memorable chip-in on No. 16. Palmer would finish in a tie for third with Webb Simpson, four shots behind Spieth.

     4. The logo: When last year’s title sponsor Dean & DeLuca informed Colonial Country Club it wouldn’t be able to meet its financial obligations for the 2018 tournament, a mad dash for potential backers ensued. Four North Texas companies (American Airlines, AT&T, XTO Energy, Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway) stepped up to support this year’s event, which was then re-titled The Fort Worth Invitational.

      In addition to the new name, and the requisite hand-wringing about the future of the longest-running PGA Tour event played at the same venue, a new logo was unveiled and was met with, um, let’s just say some harsh critiques. Since then, Charles Schwab has agreed to take over as title sponsor starting in 2019, which makes 2018 the one and only year the tournament will be called The Fort Worth Invitational, and that logo, including the merchandise featuring it, will probably become collectors’ items.

      5. The weather: Mother Nature can make or break a golf tournament, but based on the forecast for the 2018 edition of Colonial she seems to be in a sunny mood. Temperatures will be in the 90s all four days. So leave the rainboots at home, but bring plenty of sunscreen

     6. Best viewing spots: The beauty of Colonial is that it’s an easy course to walk – make sure you trek to the Horrible Horseshoe (holes 3-5) at least once during the four days – but there are also plenty of great places to watch the magic on the greens and in the galleries.

    You’ll want to see at least a few tee shots on No. 1 to catch a glimpse of the Wall of Champions. The No. 9 green is nearby and you can watch the approach shots come in over the pond from the stands or find a spot under the trees along the fairway. The 10th tee box is a fun gathering place, and on the back 9 grab some shade under the trees near the 11th green to watch the pros try to reach that monster par 5 in two shots. Expect to see plenty of birdies there. And if you want to grab a spot around the 18th green, better stake your claim early.

      7. Party holes: Of course, Colonial is not just a golf tournament. It’s Cowtown’s biggest outdoor party, with No. 13 being the center of much of the rowdiness. The majestic par 3 over water is now surrounded by corporate suites and a few public grandstands, so it’s more notable for the spectacle than its golf spectacting experience. And the PGA tour has discouraged the caddie races, but it’s still a site to behold, especially late in the afternoon on Friday or Saturday.

Not to be discounted as a party hole is No. 16, the par 3 closest to the clubhouse. Fans in the stands, corporate suites, and on the balconies create their own brand of electricity — especially on Sunday when every shot into the two-tiered green counts.

       8. Annika Anniversary: It’s hard to believe that it has been 15 years since Annika Sorenstam teed it up at the Colonial. For three days in May of 2003, Fort Worth was the epicenter of a marriage between sports and pop culture as USA Today, Vogue magazine, newspapers from all across the country and all over the world, ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick Show and more were on hand to cover the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event since 1945. Sorenstam played alongside Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber and had huge galleries only rivaled by those of Tigeramania in 1997.

“She entered the Bank of America Colonial as a female golfer and left it as a golfer,” Ron Sirak wrote.“She entered it as a reluctant superstar and left it as a one-word celebrity.”

      9.Colonial Fashion Sense: The Fort Wort Worth Invitational is partnering with Neiman Marcus for the “Outfit of the Day” contest. Share your submission using #FWIFashion and #NeimanMarcus and tag the tournament page on Facebook or Instagram. One winner per day will win $100 gift card to the new Neiman Marcus at the Shops at Clearfork and skincare goodies.

     10. The Fort Worth Invitational’s history with Ben Hogan is well documented. Hogan won the event five times, but its roster of champions also includes such luminaries as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Lanny Wadkins, Nick Price, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth.

Two of the biggest names in the history of golf  nearly added their names to the Colonial lore. Tiger Woods came oh so close in 1997, finishing in a tie for fourth behind winner David Frost. 1994 saw Greg Norman finish one shot behind champion Fulton Allem, Allem birdied two of the last three holes to keep Norman’s name off the Wall of Champions.