Spieth defends title at famed Colonial

Some people probably are still wondering exactly what the Dean & DeLuca Invitational is.

For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1946 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, the word Colonial was not in the title in last year.

From 1946 through 1988, it was the Colonial National Invitational, then became the Southwestern Bell Colonial, the MasterCard Colonial, the Bank of American Colonial and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

In case you were wondering, the Dean & DeLuca Invitational will be played for the second time this week at Colonial.

No matter the name, Dallas native Jordan Spieth was excited to claim his first PGA Tour victory in Texas last year, when he played venerable Colonial in 67-66-65-65 to win by three strokes over Harris English.

“It’s very cool,” said Spieth, who was an All-American at the University of Texas. “I mean, it’s been since college (that he won in Texas). But you know, you only have a few events a year to give it a go.

“Especially in (Dallas-Fort Worth) growing up, coming to this tournament, this tournament gave me an exemption when I needed it in 2013. It’s very special to me and really nice to kind of grab the win at Colonial.”

What makes Colonial special to Texans, and golfers everywhere, is the lingering aura of the great Ben Hogan.

Hogan, another Texan, won the tournament the first two years it was played and a record five times in all, the last in 1959 at the age of 46. Nobody else has won it more than twice.

Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles already was nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley,” because he won three times there including the 1948 U.S. Open in a little more a year, but that didn’t stop Texans from giving Colonial the same moniker.

Hogan, considered by many to be the greatest ball-striker of all-time, once said: “A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know.”

Another time, Hogan made a double bogey on the first hole in the Colonial and said: “Well, that’s why they make 18 holes.”

Hogan’s heroics were only some of the memorable moments in the legacy of Colonial, where Craig Wood captured the U.S. Open by three strokes over Denny Shute in 1941.

Tom Watson finally won the Colonial in his 22nd attempt in 1998 at the age of 48, supplanting Hogan as the oldest winner in tournament history when he beat Jim Furyk by two strokes with a final-round 66.

“I wasn’t sure of I would ever win another tournament,” said Watson, who like Hogan made the Colonial his last victory on the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson, a two-time Colonial winner, hit a wild drive into the rough on the 72nd hole of the 2008 Colonial. Then he hit his 141-yard approach shot with a 51-degree sand wedge under one tree, over another, around a giant scoreboard to within 9 feet of the hole.

Lefty sank the birdie putt to win by one stroke over Tim Clark and Rod Pampling, and the shot is known in Colonial lore as “Mickelson’s Miracle.”

“It wasn’t an easy shot, but it came off,” said Mickelson, who rates the play as one of the top five in his career.

Adam Scott took over the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking by winning the 2014 Colonial with a birdie on the third playoff hole to beat Jason Dufner, but Texans were more excited that the Aussie became the first golfer to complete the “Texas Slam.”

Scott already had won the Byron Nelson, the Houston Open and the Texas Open, and officials from all four events presented Scott with a framed Texas flag to mark the milestone later that season.

“The Texas Slam, that’s a good slam to start with,” said Scott, whose only major title came in the 2013 Masters. “I’ll see if I can find some kind of other slam eventually in my career.”

In 2003, LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam of Sweden became the first woman to play on the PGA Tour in 58 years, since Babe Zaharias made three cuts as an amateur in 1945.

Sorenstam’s participation in the Colonial drew high media attention, but she shot 71-74–145 and missed the cut by four strokes.

“It’s one of the highlights of my career,” said Sorenstam, who won 72 times on the LPGA Tour, including 10 major titles. “I still hear new stories surfacing from people who drove from everywhere to be a part of it, who say they were inspired by it.

“I hear from parents with daughters who say it really showed them that if they have a dream, they need to follow it.”

Ian Baker-Finch of Australia, who won the 1989 Colonial, made more of a splash, make that a flash, when he stripped down to a pair of blue boxer shorts to hit a shot out of a water hazard on the 13th hole in 1993.

The incident made all the TV news shows that night and the newspapers the next day.

“It’s lucky I had my good ones on,” Baker-Finch quipped after the round.

Said Nick Price, his playing partner: “Ian just turned golf into a PG-13 sport.”

The champion of the Colonial is awarded a plaid jacket, but Baker-Finch is the only one who has a matching pair of boxer shorts, given to him by tournament officials at the Champions Dinner the next year.

Baker-Finch resisted calls to recreate the incident.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Writer Tom LaMarre

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