No disrespect to the tournament sponsor but rarely will the words – Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial roll off my lips. For myself and millions of others this week’s tournament will always carry a single name – Colonial.
With it, that moniker brings visions of one man, so revered in golf circles that even neophytes of today are familiar with his name – Ben Hogan.
If you have ever been to Ft. Worth you will understand the significance of Ben Hogan, and golf in general, there. In a place where people are comfortable to talk about cattle, oil, and just about any other wide-ranging subject golf has a special place in their hearts. A lot of that has to do with the pride of knowing that two of the world’s greatest golf champions, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, got their starts in “Cowtown.”
Nelson, the quiet and humble man was always respected but it was “The Hawk,” Ben Hogan who was always larger than life.
Take the Colonial National Invitational, as it known when it was founded in 1946. Hogan went out and won the first two installments of the tournament, eventually becoming a record 5-time champion. Shady Oaks Golf Club, just a few miles down the road, might have been Hogan’s membership home but he just about “owned” Colonial Country Club . His name will forever be tied with the place and the statue of him by the clubhouse is testament to it.
Colonial Country Club was a perfect golf course for the talents of Mr. Hogan. Requiring thoughtful precision at all times it is a test that demands a lot of any professional who has hopes of winning on it.
Last year that honor went to Steve Stricker, who will be in the field this week but will carry six weeks of rust in his bag after a shoulder injury put him on the sidelines.
Being an invitational this week the field is slightly smaller but blessed with plenty of depth in the talent department,
Yes, Phil Mickelson is in the field this week and he did Houdini his way to a Colonial win in 2008 but it would be hard to say he is a great pick to grab another “Crowne”. The tight thoroughfares at Colonial that bend it places you least expect or desire, require winners to hit it straight when they need it and shape it by request as well.
You don’t have to look much further than one of last year’s playoff participants that lost out to Stricker, Tim Clark as a must watch for the week. The combination of last year’s finish and his recent The Players victory are certain signs that he could again be in contention.
Two others to keep an eye on will be Brian Gay, a native of Ft. Worth who has missed just 2 cuts in 11 starts here and has won on layouts like Harbour Town, a place that demands similar shots as Colonial.
You can also never discount Justin Leonard, who has yet to win in 16 starts but has five career top-tens and fired 61 in the final round in 2003 on his way to a runner-up finish.
It’s time for another week to hear all those great Ben Hogan stories again and one player will get the honor of being forever tied to the one of the game’s great artists.
For a true golf professional, that probably means a lot more than what any Fed Ex points or winner’s check can provide.
It is “Colonial” after all.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)