Long-running Colonial back on solid footing with new sponsor
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Colonial Country Club is the longest-running host of a PGA Tour event played on its original site, a fact that seemed in jeopardy not too long ago.
Local companies backed the tournament last year when it was called the Fort Worth Invitational following an upscale grocer’s withdrawal as title sponsor two years into a six-year contract.
Now the event that was first played at Hogan’s Alley in 1946 is on solid footing again as the Charles Schwab Challenge. The tournament starts Thursday.
“Been here since 1946. Been in essentially the same spot in our schedule. Been a lot of change in our schedule. This hasn’t changed. I don’t see it changing,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday at Colonial. “It’s the history, the tradition, the passionate fan base, the success we’ve had, the impact we’ve had. We’ll do everything we can to make certain these events are here.”
The Dallas-Fort Worth tour stops, the Byron Nelson and Colonial, were split up this year with the PGA Championship’s move up to May from late summer. The Nelson two weeks ago was played at Trinity Forest Golf Club for the second time after moving from the TPC Four Seasons.
Nine of the world’s top 20 players are at Colonial, topped by third-ranked Justin Rose, the defending champion .
While PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka and runner-up Dustin Johnson, the top two players, are taking a week off, five of the top 10 are in North Texas. Koepka, who at 17 under was the 2018 Colonial runner-up three strokes behind Rose, was one of only two top-20 players at the Nelson two weeks ago.
Financial services provider Charles Schwab & Co. was already deeply involved in golf when it became title sponsor at Colonial, where Hall of Famer and Fort Worth native Ben Hogan was a club member and won the inaugural PGA Tour event for first of his five wins on his home course.
Charles Schwab has a four-year agreement through 2022 with an option to add to that.
“We love being here in Fort Worth,” Monahan said. “We love the support we get. And knowing that this is a brand that’s all about elevation and about innovation and challenging, it’s a perfect time to come in. This event has a great future, and we know you’re going to push it along with us to new heights in the years ahead.”
On the PGA Tour Champions, for players over 50, the Charles Schwab Cup is awarded to the season’s top player. The company on Wednesday made a $5 million donation to the First Tee program to help the organization expand its programs and deepen its impact on young people in Texas.
After Dean and Deluca reneged on a title sponsorship after two years, local companies such as American Airlines, AT&T, XTO Energy and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway supported Colonial Country Club in putting on the tournament last year.
Jordan Spieth, winless since the 2017 British Open, is coming off his first top-20 finish of the season when he tied for third last week at the PGA.
While Spieth played his first tour event as a 16-year-old amateur at the Nelson in 2010, the Dallas-born player also considers Colonial a hometown tournament. Spieth won the 2016 Colonial.
Ryan Palmer is playing on his home course, the one where caddie James Edmondson has won multiple club championships. Palmer’s only PGA Tour victory since 2010 came in the two-man team event with Jon Rahm, though his four top-10 finishes in 14 starts this season are already his most since 2015.
At Colonial, Palmer missed the cut last year, after finishing tied for 70th in 2017, a year after his Colonial-best finish of third. He has missed the cut four times at Hogan’s Alley, and has an average finish of 33rd in his other 11 appearances, including three top 10s.
“It’s hard at times because the pressure I put on myself and you want to play so well, and so many of my friends and family are here at Colonial Country Club,” Palmer said. “James and I both play regularly. I guess this is our fifth major.”