May 20, 2014

TCU’s Julien Brun seeing Colonial from new — crowded — perspective

TCU standout receives a sponsor’s exemption into the Crowne Plaza Invitational field.

Playing Colonial Country Club is old hat for Julien Brun.

The Frenchman plays the course at least once a week as a member of the TCU golf team.

Tuesday was a whole new experience.

Brun stepped up to the first tee for a practice round with two-time Crowne Plaza Invitational champion Zach Johnson to prepare for his first PGA event as a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s tournament.

“You step up on the first tee and you’re playing with Zach Johnson, that’s pretty neat,” Brun said.

His practice round was solid, he said, and he enjoyed the experience of playing in front of the small crowd that wandered the course to watch Tuesday’s practice rounds.

“Well, in the NCAA there’s no one watching us,” Brun said. “There’s only a bunch of UT fans and that’s about it. It’s great. I’m embracing it, and it’s going to be great to play in front of a big crowd.”

And that’s exactly the kind of experience Johnson said Brun needs in order to take his game, which already impressed Johnson on Tuesday, to the next level.

“The way I look at it, you get someone like that, they just have to get comfortable in situations or arenas of this nature,” Johnson said. “That’s what I had to do is just get comfortable and get experience. The maturation process now is going to be polishing, but mostly just experience because he knows what to do.”

Tuesday was also a chance for Brun to reconnect with a former rival, Jordan Spieth, who was a freshman at Texas in Brun’s freshman year at TCU.

“He beat me a lot, but I beat him a couple of times,” Brun said with a smile.

Ready to repeat

Only 14 players have won Colonial and the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Brendon Todd, last week’s Nelson winner, would like to make it 15.

“That would mean a lot,” Todd said. “I’m really proud to be the Byron Nelson champion. He was a legend of the game, and obviously, now we’re in Ben Hogan’s court. So I think if you could get both of those in your career, you’d be doing something really special.

“But if I could get them back-to-back weeks, that would be probably untouchable.”

Getting a decent night’s sleep since Sunday is proving to be difficult, he said.

“So many thoughts going through your head, so much opportunity ahead of me,” said Todd, the PGA Tour’s eighth first-time winner this season. “But I think my game is good right now. All the areas are pretty strong. When I do pick up the clubs [Tuesday] afternoon and Thursday when I tee off, everything’s going to still feel pretty good.”

Boo’s feelin’ good

Scattering golf balls everywhere, Boo Weekley missed the cut at last year’s Byron Nelson tournament, then rallied a week later to win Colonial. His head is in a different place this year.

“I’ve got a lot more confidence,” Weekly said. “Coming in here last year, standing on that driving range, I was probably averaging 400 or 500 balls in the morning and in the afternoon. Hitting balls and hitting balls. I had the snap. I had the pull hook and couldn’t figure out what was going on.”

Weekley finished in a tie for fifth last week at the Nelson, “so I’ve got a little more confidence coming into here.”

It was his first top-10 finish of the season, along with three top-25s. Switching his clubs from graphite to steel shafts a month ago might improve his 2014 campaign.

“I’ve started hitting it a lot better,” he said. “I’ve actually been putting the ball well this year, but nothing’s fell. A couple of putts fell here and there and it kind of kept me in the contention part of it. But the ones that needed to fall just didn’t fall.”

Notable pairings

Expect large crowds Thursday morning when Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world golf rankings, is partnered with Zach Johnson and three-time 2013-14 winner Jimmy Walker. They tee off at No. 10 at 7:44 a.m.

Just ahead of that group with a 7:33 a.m. tee time is Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk.

Spieth, a Dallas native and Masters runner-up, is paired with Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan with a 12:33 p.m. tee time from No. 1, followed by Weekley with Dustin Johnson and Harris English at 12:44 p.m.

Fort Worth native and TCU alumnus J.J. Henry tees off at 7:55 a.m. from No. 1.

Another TCU alumnus, Franklin Corpening tees off at 8:39 a.m. from the first tee and Brun gets his first PGA Tour event going at 8:39 a.m. from the 10th tee.

Roster moves

Patrick Reed withdrew Tuesday because his wife is due to have a baby. He withdrew from last week’s Nelson, too. Paul Casey was added to the field.

Past champion Rod Curl (1974) withdrew, but his spot will not be filled.

Staff writer Eric Zarate

contributed to this report.

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