By Tom LaMarre
The PGA Tour event at Colonial Country Club www.colonialgolfclub.com in Fort Worth, Texas, will be played for the 73rd time this week with a new title sponsor on the course known as “Hogan’s Alley.”
Only Augusta National and the Masters have a longer uninterrupted run on the circuit.
In what is now the Charles Schwab Challenge, Justin Rose of England will defend the title he won by three strokes last year over Brooks Koepka, who is passing up the tournament this time after successfully defending his title in the PGA Championship.
“I saw Ben Hogan’s name twice (after receiving the Leonard Trophy that goes to the winner),” Rose said closing out a week of brilliant ball-striking with a 6-under-par 64 last year. “It sort of says a lot. … I’m proud to be a part of that. The way I won I think is very fitting for a place that’s called ‘Hogan’s Alley.’ I couldn’t have dreamt a better way really.
“If I begin to look at the courses I’ve won at, this definitely strengthens that group even more. I’m very happy my game has turned up and I’ve been inspired by some of these great venues.”
Even though the tournament comes a week after the PGA, which was moved this year from its traditional spot on the schedule in August, tournament officials are pleased to have lined up a solid field to challenge Rose’s title defense.
Included are Francesco Molinari of Italy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm of Spain, Xander Schauffele, Paul Casey of England, Bryson DeChambeau, Ton Finau, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, Jason Dufner, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Martin Kaymer of Germany, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker.
Others past winners to don the plaid jacket that goes to the champion at Colonial who are playing this week include Spieth, Sabbatini, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Tom Purtzer, Keith Clearwater and Steve Stricker.
The tournament was first played in 1946 and Hogan, still a presence at Colonial with a seven-foot statue that overlooks the course, won it the first two years and a record five times in all. You will also find the names Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson on the trophy.
Course flooding cancelled the tournament in 1949, but it’s been held every year since and among those who have won it twice include Billy Casper, Julius Boros, Lee Trevino, Al Geiberger, Nick Price, Ben Crenshaw, Corey Pavin, Bruce Lietzke, Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson.
Rose hopes to join that list this week.
- Justin Rose, England – The defending champion at Colonial shot two 66s and two 64s to win by three shots over Brooks Koepka last year. Until then, Rose’s best result in four starts in the tournament was a tie for 13th in 2005. He tied for 29th in the PGA last week and has five top-10s, including a victory in the Farmers Insurance Open, this season.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – After a disappointing missed cut in the PGA, Rahm is among the favorites at Colonial, where he tied for second in 2017 and tied for fifth last year in his only two appearances. Teamed with Ryan Palmer to win the Zurich last month and has seven top-10 finishes on his own this season, including a tie for ninth in the Masters.
- Jordan Spieth, United States – The 2016 Colonial champion seemingly snapped out of a slump last week with a tie for third in the PGA Championship, his first result in the top 20 this season. Spieth, from nearby Dallas, tied for second in his title defense and also in 2015, in addition to finishing in a tie for seventh in his first appearance in 2013.
- Rickie Fowler, United States – A 77 in the windy final round knocked Rickie down to a tie for 36th in the PGA after he tied for 17th in the Valero Texas Open, tied for ninth in the Masters and tied for fourth in the Wells Fargo in his previous three starts. Fowler makes sixth start at Colonial, having tied for fifth in 2012 and tied for 14th last season.
- Francesco Molinari, Italy – Coming off a tie for 48th in the PGA Championship, Molinari is trying to regain the form he showed in March and April, when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, finished third in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and tied for fifth in the Masters. He is making his debut in the Charles Schwab Challenge.
- Xander Schauffele, United States – Trying to build on the momentum of a tie for 16th in the PGA and a tie for second in the Masters, Schauffele is making his third start at Colonial, having tied for 48th two years ago before missing the cut in 2018. However, he’s a different player this year, with wins in the WGC-HSBC and the Sony TOC.
- Rory Sabbatini, Slovakia – The 2007 champion at Colonial, where he beat Bernhard Langer and Jim Furyk in a playoff, Sabbatini is riding a hot streak. He tied for 10th in the RBC Heritage, tied for third in the Zurich, tied for 18th in the Wells Fargo and tied for fifth in the PGA. He is making 19th start at Colonial and has three other top-10 finishes.
- Paul Casey, England – Managed only a tie for 29th in the PGA, but his having a strong season with five top-10s, including a victory in the Valspar and second at Pebble Beach. Casey makes sixth appearance at Colonial, where he finished solo fifth in 2009, tied for 13th the following year and tied for 10th last year, falling back with a closing 73.
- Ian Poulter, England – Despite a missed cut in the PGA, Poulter is having a comeback season at 43, with four straight finishes in the top 20 before that and a total of four top-10s, including a tie for third in the WGC-Mexico Championship. He is making his sixth start at Colonial, with his best results a tie for fifth in 2015 and eighth in 2009.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Having missed the cut in his last two starts, DeChambeau is trying to regain the form he had early this season with a victory in the Safeway Open, a solo seventh in the Sentry TOC and a tie for 10th in the Sony Open. Still trying to figure out Colonial after two missed cuts and a tie for 42nd last year.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Danny Lee, New Zealand; Scott Piercy, United States; Tony Finau, United States; Pat Perez, United States.
- Matthew Fitzpatrick, England – A five-time winner on the Euro Tour, Fitzpatrick has yet to break through in the U.S., but he did finish second in Arnold Palmer Invitational.
- Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Coming off a tie for 16th in his first PGA Championship, Ancer is having a strong second season on the PGA Tour with seven results in the top 25.
- Sam Burns, United States – Seemingly on the way to a top-10 in his first PGA, Burns made six bogeys late in a 74 to tie for 29th. Has five top-25s, including a T-3 this season.
- Beau Hossler, United States – Former Texas All-American closed with 68 to T-36 in his second PGA. Has three top-25s this season and opened with 64 at Colonial last year.
- Anirban Lahiri, India – The 31-year-old Lahiri has won 18 times in Asia, but not yet in U.S. Lahiri finished T-6 in 2016 at Colonial, and best this year was T-10 at Mayakoba.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html