Mac Engel

May 22, 2014

In this era, the Colonial is as good as it gets in the PGA

Aside from the unfortunate loss of the caddie races, Fort Worth’s tournament still has lots to offer.

Don’t worry — the party hole at 13 is still ready for you to turn it into a high school/class reunion again. But something is definitely missing.

The long-standing tradition of the caddies “racing” to the green on 13 to the cheers of the patrons, some of whom actually watch golf, was pretty much gone on Day 1 Thursday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Every now and then a caddie would play along as a fan called out a color, but the thrill is gone. Thanks a lot, PGA.

The only way this tradition, which the PGA officially killed in August 2013, returns is if the patrons who line this hole put enough pressure on the caddies to get this human dot race back up and operational. It must be an off-the-books operation.

This is not a direct call for increased alcohol consumption, but there usually is a correlation between the volume of fans and volume of cereal malt beverages consumed. You do the math.

Aside from that loss, this year’s Colonial is about as good as it’s going to get for Fort Worth’s grand old tournament.

Thursday was warm, but it was not the oppressive heat that makes you cry. It remains one of the very best courses to walk. Tim Love food. Flowing margaritas. Three of the top eight players in the world, including No. 1-ranked Adam Scott.

It would really help if this thing is close between Scott and local guy Jordan Spieth on Sunday, but for now this tournament could not have asked for more on its first day.

Unless Tiger and Phil and Rory commit to play here — which would be really cool if that happened — it does not get any better for a non-major golf tournament in this era.

“The idea that you can line them all up any more is unrealistic; guys are all over the map,” veteran CBS golf announcer Jim Nantz told me in a phone interview. “If you have three of the top eight, that’s a testament to the respect that this tournament has among the players. It’s befitting of Colonial and its rich history.

“I do so many tournaments in a year that do not have three of the top eight, or three of the top 25 — trust me. There are just so many places, so many tournaments and so many arrangements made for players now that it’s really hard, outside of the four majors and the [World Golf Championships], to get that many.”

This is not just a Colonial issue; it’s a PGA issue that, unfortunately, directly affects the future stability, and viability, of Fort Worth’s tournament. It may be Colonial, but to this generation, it’s just not that much different than Valero in San Antonio or Shell in Houston. Colonial is no different than the majority of PGA stops, busting it and selling whatever it can to line up the names you may know.

In this star-centric sports culture, the game’s biggest names have all the power and they know it, which leaves so many tournaments praying they can get one or two each year. Three is worthy of a parade.

To land his royal highness, El Tigre, which Colonial will never do again, all but requires a miracle, or a red carpet lined with $10,000 bills.

Title sponsor Crowne Plaza will decide whether to extend its contract at the end of September. The big hotel chain is committed as the sponsor in 2015, but after that, it’s undecided. You may not notice it, but this tournament needs a sponsor of this scale, and a company that has put a high priority on its affiliation with this place.

Crowne Plaza vice president Gina LaBarre said Thursday that no decision has been made to extend the contract, and sounds like a woman firmly on the fence. Crowne Plaza is playing a nice game of leverage.

LaBarre said Crowne Plaza’s “lion share” of marketing expenses is dedicated to this tournament, and added that, “It’s all in the ratings,” she said. “The broadcast stuff is critical.”

Ratings and “broadcast stuff” are often easily swayed by a variety of factors well beyond the influence of the people who run Colonial.

It would really help if Scott and Spieth are in the final pairing Sunday, which would give the die-hard iron heads as well as the casual fan a reason to watch.

We already know no one will be watching the caddie race.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog on

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