Everyone knows everything's bigger in Texas -- from Pecos Bill to Bill Parcells. Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, however, bucks that trend. It's a shotmaker's course with a capital "S." Playing to a paltry 7,054 yards, anyone in the field has a puncher's chance to win. Everyone, apparently, except native Texans.
As I mentioned in last week's Skinny, not since Ben Crenshaw in 1990 has a Texan won at Hogan's Alley. Wondering if this year could be different, I looked at the eight native Texans from the main portion of the PGA Tour media guide who were entered in the Colonial. Scott Verplank, who withdrew from the Byron Nelson Champinship because of a shoulder injury would have been the ninth, but he decided to take another week off. Several of those who remain have games that play to Colonial's strength. They're shorter, straighter hitters, who know how to hit greens.
Among them, Justin Leonard has the best record in the tournament, having never missed the cut in 12 appearances. Colonial should set up well for him this year, too. Leonard is 13th on tour in accuracy, improving markedly in that stat, and he's hitting his approaches closer to the pin as well. He finished T-26 at Colonial a year ago and didn't have a round over par. But there's something I don't like about Leonard's history at Hogan's place. A year ago, he played the last five holes of the tournament in three-over par to drop far down the leaderboard. He had a similar collapse in 2004 when he played the final five holes in two-over to fall to T-14. In 2003, when he finished second, he made bogey on the final hole. Not that he had a chance to catch kenny Perry, who finished six strokes ahead, but a final-hole birdie would have given Leonard a 59.
His trouble finishing isn't a function of just Colonial, either. He has just two subpar final rounds in six attempts this season and hasn't finished in the top 30 of a tour event since the FBR Open in February.
Then there's Chad Campbell, who I liked a week ago, as well. I like him a bit more this week after seeing him finish fifth at the Nelson. Campbell is not as short as you might think, averaging nearly 294 yards off the tee, but he does do well in stats you might associate with a shorter hitter. He's T-26 in greens in regulation and 38th in ball striking. He's also in the top 20 in distance to the pin from every measured stat less than 150 yards.
Kenny Perry: Ordinarily I wouldn't want to pick someone coming off an injury unless his initials were TW, but Perry's surgically repaired knee was none the worse for wear in his return to the PGA Tour at last week's Byron Nelson. His T-34 finish included just one round over par and he has shown an affinity for Colonial. His last four starts there have produced a T-2, a T-12 and two wins.
Jim Furyk: I'll go to the well one more time with Furyk, the second-leading money winner on tour. He missed the cut last week, but has a solid history at Colonial with four top-10s since 1997, including a T-5 in 2003.
Brandt Jobe: The Oklahoma City native lives in Southlake, Texas, just north of Fort Worth so this is a good place for him to end his 2006 slump. He has not had a top-25 finish since the Buick Invitational, but he was T-5 at Colonial in 2005. He also finished fourth there in 2003.
Bo Van Pelt: Another player with ties to the Sooner State (he played college golf at Oklahoma State and lives in Tulsa), wouldn't it be a kick in the pants to Texans if he or Jobe won this week? This season, Van Pelt has made 12 straight cuts, including three top 10s. Also, Van Pelt has a T-5 and a T-17 in two appearances at the Colonial.
My four cents (two cents doesn't buy what it used to)
The PGA Tour is about to propose a points system for next year's FedEx Cup playoffs. The system would be designed so a player ranked at the bottom of the standings can get hot, win a playoff event or two, and win the overall tour championship.
That's all well and good, but the tour is finding it's impossible to come up with a way to ensure a player must play all three events before advancing to the Tour Championship. For example, if Tiger Woods wins the first two events in Boston and New York, he'd be assured a spot in the final and would be under no obligation to play the third week in Chicago. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a playoff system?
I propose the following: Forget a points system. Let the top 125 players on the money list play the first playoff week. The top 90 players that week advance to the second week. The top 60 players the second week advance to the third. The top 30 players go to the final. I know there are flaws -- winning doesn't mean as much as advancing -- but imagine the pressure on a player who needs to make a short putt on 18 to advance to the following week. Ah, but the tour already has a tournment with that kind of pressure.
It's called Q School.
John Antonini is a senior editor for Golf World magazine