Cleat Geeks

Off the Tee: Dean & Deluca Invitational

PalmerPlayerNicklausThe original Big Three in golf of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player likely will never be matched in stature, record, tradition or about any other category that can be considered. So don’t even try.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth enjoying the talent and hopefully budding rivalry of golf’s 2016 incarnation of the Big Three.

Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy hold down the top three spots in the world rankings. They’ve accounted for seven of the previous 20 victories in major championships and between them have a total of 44 professional wins.

And add their ages together, it comes to 77 – nine years younger than Palmer.jordan-spieth-jason-day-rory-mcilroy-golf_3424024

Needless to say, they’ve accomplished a lot in a short period of time and created an impressive youth movement, something golf talks up on a yearly basis as new young stars come out into the professional ranks. In the previous decade, their role was to be “the guy who challenges Tiger Woods” and yet nobody really ever did it. Woods’ run of capturing 13 of his 14 total majors over a course of 35 total events is historic in golf domination.

And while people wanted to make Tiger and Phil Mickelson “rivals,” the reality is that during that 13-win stretch for Woods, Mickelson only won three majors. (He has since captured the 2010 Masters and 2013 Open Championship to get to a total of five.)

In this decade, it’s been an era of a lot of first-time champions. Solid players like Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Justin Rose have all broken through and continue to be competitive. Even other young up-and-comers like Justin Thomas, Smylie Kaufman and Rickie Fowler flash tremendous nerve and ability while appealing to the younger golf fans.

But like in any sport, having that big rivalry of a handful of winners at the top drives interest. And this top trio is doing that with their play.

Day has three wins since March, including going wire-to-wire at Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill and The Players Championship. McIlroy just won for the first time this season in his home country last week after a top-five finish in Charlotte two weeks earlier. Spieth’s form has been the shakiest, but he’s not far removed from a stretch where he won two majors, the FedEx Cup championship and truckloads of money last season.

The stage is set for a summer of golf’s elite squaring off head to head for big honors. And given their youth, it could be a rivalry that lasts a while.


Dean & Deluca Invitational Picks

All that being said, Spieth is the only of the trio that will play this week at the Dean & Deluca Invitational. Long known as the Colonial National Invitational, the event is played at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club, one of the classic course on the PGA Tour rotation and, at 7,054 yards, one of the shortest. The tree-lined fairways and springtime Texas winds provide its main defense against low scores.

1 – Spieth – How could someone not have picked this guy last week at his hometown event? Apparently it was possible not to, and in the end it worked out, but that mistake won’t be made a second time. This is a second straight home game for the young star and he will be ready to roll after a tie for 2nd here last season.JasonDufner

2 – Jason Dufner – Ball striking is at a premium as players wind through the trees of this classic layout, and Dufner is one of the better iron players out there. He’s been in the hunt at this course before and will be this week.

3 – Matt Kuchar – After back-to-back third place finishes at TPC and the Byron Nelson, this seems like a pretty obvious guy to look at. He’s become pretty much an ATM with as many tournaments as he played and as consistent as he has been.

Longshot – Robert Streb – Despite making only 10 cuts in 17 tries this season and only finding the top 20 once, the Oklahoma native makes the list. He had a strong weekend in this event last year to finish tied for 19th and needs a good week to move up from his No. 112 spot in the FedEx Cup race.

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