Dean and Deluca at Colonial Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
Jordan Spieth returns to Colonial Country Club in his native Texas desperate to rediscover the form that saw him win the Dean and Deluca Invitational. It may be premature to say that the 23-year-old is in crisis mode, but he is clearly struggling with his game and, possibly, with his thought processes.
From the moment he emerged on the PGA Tour, Spieth has been a truly impressive individual, winning tournaments on tough courses and handling himself like an old pro. Sure, there have been the odd moments when he has behaved like a teenager throwing tantrums but it is all too easy to forget how young he still is. No matter what the circumstances, however, he always handles himself with class and dignity when it comes to dealing with the media.
However, there have been some worrying signs lately. He was always going to suffer some kind of hangover from his stellar 2015, when he won two majors and could conceivably have won all four. His meltdown at the 2016 Masters is well documented, but there were other tournaments where it was clear that he was struggling both with his game and with himself.
When he got himself into contention again with 18 holes to play at Augusta in April, many pundits (this one included) expected him to march off into the sunset with another Green Jacket wrapped around his shoulders. Instead, he played some of the worst golf of his young career and actually walked off into the sunset with a big back cloud over his head.
The big surprise is how little golf he has played since Augusta. You would think that he would have wanted to get the rust out of his system. Spieth duly missed the cut at the Players Championship, looking like he would rather be anywhere else. He began his challenge at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week with a 68 and looked to be comfortably heading for the weekend before crashing and burning to a second round of 75 that saw him miss the cut by one stroke. In direct contrast was the performance of Sergio Garcia. If, 12 months ago, the Spaniard had begun any tournament with a round of 73, the chances are that he would have been packing his bags for home on Friday night. Not last week - he bounced back with a brilliant 65, which just goes to show what confidence can do for you. He is the Masters champion, a major winner and, finally, he is playing like one.
So it is to be hoped that Spieth can draw on the memories of last year's terrific play at Colonial, where he won with a 72-hole total of 263, 17 under par. He beat Harris English by three shots and closed out with a final round of 65 that featured birdies on each of the last three holes. What would Spieth give for that sort of form right now? Anothe rpoor week just might derail his entire season.
He followed a long line of quality champions. It was won in 2010 and 2012 by former Open and Masters champion Zach Johnson, in 2011 by David Toms, in 2013 by crowd favourite Boo Weekley, in 2014 by Adam Scott and in 2015 by Chris Kirk.
Colonial is a shotmakers' course, which is precisely why Johnson and Spieth have won it three times between them. Spieth also finished second in 2015.
Another man with a decent record here is Jason Dufner, runner-up in 2012 and 2014. Dufner has lost a lot of weight in recent times, which has coincided with him struggling with his game. He would be the first to admit that he does not putt well, but he never has. With a wedge in his hands, Dufner has few peers, and his form is encouraging. Yes, he struggled in the Players Championship, but he should have won at Harbour Town - a final round of 76 saw him tumble down the leaderboard. But he bounced straight back at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, finishing in a tie for fifth thanks to stunning final round of 63. And it was only a third round of 73 that stopped him from being in contention to win that event.
Yes, he has developed a tendency to throw in one bad round in four, but the signs are generally fairly encouraging, and he is surely the man to beat at Colonial.
This is also a course that should suit Paul Casey, and if ever a player is overdue a victory it is the Englishman. His only win on the PGA Tour came at the 2009 Shell Houston Open, although he twice lost in playoffs in 2015. Although he has 13 European Tour wins to his credit, the last of those came in 2014. He took the decision to end his European Tour membership, which means we will not see him in the Ryder Cup again, and that is a crying shame.
Time after time, week after week, Casey knocks on the door without being able to push his way through. He is ranked 14th in the world and has become a money-making machine, but does he have the hunger? You would like to think that being unable to finish the finish hurts Casey deeply. He is impressive in all parts of his game and he plays difficult courses really well. Once again, he produced a terrific finish at The Masters. Maybe the reality is that life has become just too comfortable for Casey, but you would like to hope that is not the case.
Jason Dufner. In decent form
Jordan Spieth. Man with a point to prove
Paul Casey. Should be at Wentworth, winning the BMW PGA
Jason Dufner. The world's happiest golfer!
Jordan Spieth. Will feed off some great memories
Paul Casey. Time to prove he really wants to win
Emiliano Grillo. Hugely underrated player
Brandt Snedeker. Will relish the Texas breeze
Hideki Matsuyama. Having a dream season
Jon Rahm. How can you ignore him?
Ryan Moore. A proper shotmaker
Phil Mickelson. Can Lefty keep it in play?
Zach Johnson. Course specialist
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