Crowne Plaza at Colonial offers intrigue beyond Spieth, Scott

Crowne Plaza Invitational kicks off with youth golf clinic

A youth golf clinic kicks off the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial PGA Tour tournament. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
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A youth golf clinic kicks off the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial PGA Tour tournament. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Tournament week has arrived for fans and officials at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, with defending champion Adam Scott and Masters winner Jordan Spieth, 21, in the spotlight.

That duo will head to Fort Worth as the highest-ranked golfers in the Colonial field, with Spieth (No. 2) crowding Rory McIlroy for the top spot in the world golf rankings and Scott (No. 11) pushing to climb back into the top 10. Scott, 35, won last year’s title while holding the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

Both players will be key figures to track, starting with Thursday’s opening round at Colonial Country Club. But they’re far from the only compelling reasons to focus on the action in Fort Worth.

Here are five tournament storylines this week, starting with Monday night’s live announcement of the 2015 Ben Hogan Award winner, that do not involve Scott or Spieth:

Ben Hogan Award presentation

One of three finalists will receive the 2015 Hogan Award, presented at Colonial to the top player in college golf. The finalists are Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, the top-ranked player in the Golfstat and Golfweek/Sagarin college golf rankings; Arizona State’s Jon Rahm, the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and the Scratch Players World Rankings; and Washington’s Cheng-Tsung Pan, the only four-time semifinalist in Hogan Award history and the Huskies’ school record-holder for career victories (7).

The recipient will receive an invitation to compete in the 2016 Colonial tournament and earn a $25,000 grant for the men’s golf scholarship program at his school.

Title for the Ages

Among competitors seeking the 2015 Colonial title will be five past champions who compete primarily on the Champions Tour.

The list of 50-plus competitors bypassing tee times in this week’s Senior PGA Championship in French Lick, Ind. to seek another plaid jacket include past Colonial champs Tom Watson (1998), Kenny Perry (2003, 2005), Corey Pavin (1985, 1996), Tom Purtzer (1991) and Keith Clearwater (1987).

Notable newcomers

The list of first-time competitors in this year’s event includes Sam Saunders, a PGA Tour rookie who is the grandson of golf legend Arnold Palmer, and Cody Gribble, a Dallas resident and former college teammate with Spieth on Texas’ team that won the 2012 NCAA championship. Saunders, 27, and Gribble, 24, were selected to compete as Champions’ Choice invitees by past tournament winners.

Another golfer making his Colonial debut will be Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion (2001, 2004).

A youth golf clinic kicks off the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial PGA Tour tournament. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Sponsorship situation

Crowne Plaza has announced it will be stepping down as title sponsor of Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop after this year, ending a nine-year run that is the longest of any title sponsor in tournament history. Gina LaBarre, vice president of Crowne Plaza brand management, said corporate executives are tweaking their marketing strategy but will miss the relationship.

“Nine years is a long time. I don’t know that we’ve stuck to any sponsorship this long,” LaBarre said, reflecting on her 20-plus years with the company. “So it’s been a good run for us. We’ll miss it.”

Colonial and PGA Tour officials remain in negotiations with a prospective replacement and hope to make an announcement soon, said Chuck Scherer, Colonial club president.

Tarrant County connections

Ryan Palmer, a Colleyville resident who is No. 29 in the world golf rankings, joins Fort Worth residents J.J. Henry and Rory Sabbatini on the list of competitors with Tarrant County connections. Westlake resident Ben Crane is in that mix, along with Fort Worth natives John Peterson and Martin Flores.

Peterson, 26, a former Fort Worth Paschal and LSU golfer, has caught the attention of Colonial tournament chairman Bobby Patton with his play this season. After receiving a sponsor’s exemption to make his Colonial debut in 2013, Peterson has posted five top-25 finishes and earned $611,439 at tour events this season to secure his invitation to his hometown tour stop.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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