Welcome to Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.
After a thrilling PGA Championship in Rochester, the PGA Tour schedule resumes this week in Texas at the venerable Colonial Country Club, one of my favorite annual stops on the schedule.
Colonial is a classic, tree-lined par-70, measuring a shade over 7,200 yards but often playing much shorter than the listed yardage due to firm, fast conditions. Wild western winds can wreak havoc on the field in Fort Worth, as we saw in the final round a year ago when Sam Burns erased a seven-shot deficit and prevailed over Scottie Scheffler in sudden death.
The formula for success is a simple one at Colonial, which was designed by Perry Maxwell and John Bredemus in 1936 and is scheduled for a major renovation by Gil Hanse after the tournament: hit the fairways and the center of the pure bentgrass greens and create as many birdie opportunities as possible.
Inside the field @CSChallengeFW, which includes 64 PGA TOUR winners.
World No. 1, @PGAChampionship runner-up, and the Block Party are all headed to Fort Worth.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 23, 2023
While we’ve seen the winning score stretch north of 20-under par here in the past, a total in the mid-teens is often good enough to earn the plaid jacket.
We’re focusing on players who are accurate drivers on shorter courses, have been thriving on approach, in particular from 125-175 yards and have a good history putting on bentgrass greens. Avoiding double bogeys – hello watery par-3 No. 13 – is also crucial because there are only two par-5s and one of them, No. 11, is a 600-yard beast.
Let’s take three shots at the green
Collin Morikawa Top 10 +200
Morikawa’s putter has kept him from contending more frequently this year but he looked better on the greens last week at Oak Hill, gaining a half-shot on the field in a tie for 26th. He’s the best iron player on Tour from 125-175 yards and also ranks fourth in this field in Good Drives Gained on shorter courses.
Morikawa hasn’t won in almost two years, which is difficult to comprehend considering his talent. But he was close at Colonial in 2020, losing in a playoff after gaining 9.4 shots Tee-to-Green. Morikawa wasn’t in the heat of battle at the PGA so should arrive in Fort Worth mentally fresh and ready to contend.
Eric Cole Top 20 +335
The oddsmakers continue to undervalue Cole, who is on the short list of candidates for 2023 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He was the last man in the field in last week’s PGA Championship and capitalized, gaining shots everywhere but the greens in a tie for 15th.
Colonial is a better fit for his skill set. He’s 18th in the field in SG: Approach and 34th in putting on bentgrass greens. I won’t be surprised if he’s hanging around the top of the leaderboard on Sunday and his fifth top-20 of the season seems well within reach.
Jordan Spieth Top 10 +160
Spieth has played in Colonial every year since turning pro, recording eight top-10 finishes in 10 appearances, including a victory in 2016 and three runner-ups. He put to bed any concerns about his injured wrist with a respectable T-29 at Oak Hill despite losing shots around the green and with the putter.
He’s driving the golf ball as well as he has at any point in his career and his short-to-mid-iron play remains impeccable, having gained at least 2.7 shots on approach in four of his last five tournaments. With four top-4 finishes since April, the talented Texan has been knocking on the door of another Tour victory.
YTD: -18 units