Golf

Colonial has a strong field that ‘is going to get better’

The Colonial has a new title sponsor and the PGA Tour has a new schedule.

That has Charles Schwab Challenge officials excited about next month’s tournament drawing one of the best fields in recent years.

Paul Casey is the latest big name golfer on the early commitment list, giving the tournament five golfers ranked in the top 11 in the world. Casey (11) joins defending champion Justin Rose (1), Justin Thomas (5), Jon Rahm (8) and Xander Schauffele (10).

Rickie Fowler, the No. 9 player in the world, is also expected to compete this year, tournament director Michael Tothe said on Monday following the “Wide Open” media golf tournament at Colonial Country Club.

The tournament is also hopeful to land Brooks Koepka, the No. 4-ranked player who made his debut last year and finished second, and is talking with Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner and two-time Colonial champion.

“Rickie Fowler hasn’t officially committed, but we feel pretty good he will,” Tothe said. “We’ve had good conversations with Brooks, and we’re talking with Phil. We’re talking to everybody we should be talking to. I think our field is going to get even better.”

Is Tiger Woods, who has resurrected his career and is now the No. 12 player in the world, among the players Colonial is pursuing? Woods has played the event only once, back in 1997, and the tournament would love to land him of course. But there isn’t much traction on that front.

“For me, Tiger is in the rearview mirror,” Tothe said. “He hasn’t played here in 20-plus years. We’ll be ready if he ever commits, but it’s unlikely.”

Instead, Tothe is focused on the players who will be here.

Fowler is a player who moves the needle, and so is North Texas’ Jordan Spieth.

Fowler finished tied for 14th in last year’s tournament, his first appearance since 2014. He had played the tournament five consecutive years from 2010-14 with his best finish being T5th in 2012.

“Rickie Fowler, to me, is everything golf is about,” Tothe said. “He’s young. He’s good-looking. He’s engaging. The fans gravitate toward him. It’d be great to have him in the winner’s circle.”

The same can be said about Spieth, who has made the cut in all six of his appearances, winning in 2016.

Casey is another nice get for the tournament. The Englishman returns after missing last year’s tournament, another European star in the field.

In previous years, Colonial had struggled attracting the top European players since it coincided with the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship. That is no longer an issue with the PGA Tour’s new schedule.

Colonial hopes to benefit with more players such as Rose, Rahm and Casey coming to town. The tournament felt Tommy Fleetwood would make his Colonial debut, but that is no longer guaranteed.

Colonial is still hopeful that Fleetwood comes, as well as other European stars such as Francesco Molinari (the reigning British Open champion ranked No. 7 in the world), Henrik Stenson (the 2016 British Open winner) and Graeme McDowell (the 2010 U.S. Open champion).

“Having no impediment with the European Tour is huge for us,” Tothe said. “Huge.”

If Fowler, Molinari and Koepka commit, that would give the tournament eight of the top 11 players.

Tothe also likes where Colonial falls on the schedule. The PGA Tour comes to town with plenty of excitement leading into the tournament with two majors (the Masters and PGA Championship), plus The Players, having been played.

The only issue is following a major championship with potential players withdrawing.

“My biggest fear is guys commit and then they get beat up at the PGA Championship and they WD,” Tothe said. “There’s a little bit of history of that happening, but I feel pretty good.

“And I like having the week between the AT&T Byron Nelson and us. It gives the fans a week to kind of take a breather. You spend a week at the Nelson, you love it out there, you get caught up in the office here, and then you come over to Fort Worth.”

Colonial is scheduled for May 20-26. Tickets are on sale now and one-day tickets for any day cost $50.

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