Dean & Deluca Invitational 2017: Fathauer, Poston, Kraft share lead at Colonial with 65s

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange  |  May 25, 2017 at 9:49 PM
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- The attempt to tame storied Colonial Country Club is difficult under even benign conditions, so when the wind is howling through and above the narrow pecan tree-lined corridors the work is doubly difficult.

Unheralded Derek Fathauer, J.T Poston and Kelly Kraft enjoyed their stint in the spotlight on Thursday when they fashioned a 5-under-par 65s to tie for the lead after the first round of the Dean & Deluca Invitational, played under warm and windy conditions on the banks of the Trinity River.

The leaders have combined to play 172 events without a win and have garnered only 10 combined top-10 finishes, but each found a way to play through the blustery winds and temper their nerves to find a place atop the leaderboard.

Scott Brown, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Jon Rahm of Spain all shot 66 in the morning wave and were tied for fourth.

Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson, both two-time champions at Colonial, and Paul Casey of England head a group of six golfers in a tie for seventh at 67, while Scott Piercy, Stewart Cink and 2012 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson highlighted 11 players tied for 13th at 68.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain is in a tie for 24th at 69, while defending champion and hometown favorite Jordan Spieth struggled with his driver and finished in a tie for 34th at 70.

Fathauer played in the morning wave, started on the back nine and made a birdie on his first hole -- the par-4 10th -- before giving that stroke back on the par-4 fifth.

Then he birdied the par-4 18th and added four more birdies on the front nine, including one on the daunting par-4 third hole that begins Colonial's famous "Horrible Horseshoe," a difficult three-hole stretch.

"I kind of believed I had this kind of round in me, but a look at my last 15 rounds or 16 rounds I wouldn't have said so," said Fathauer, who has missed the cut in nine of 17 events this season, including his last three tournaments.

"I just play my own game. You can walk up and down the range and see guys with TrackMan and swing coaches and gadgets and stuff, and that's not how I learned to play golf. I just hit the ball, go find it, and hit it again."

Poston, a PGA Tour rookie, racked up six birdies and one bogey, while Kraft, the 2011 U.S. Amateur champion from nearby Denton, Texas, had five birdies and no bogeys, both amazing rounds considering they played in the afternoon wave when the winds were a constant 25 mph, with gusts to 32.

"A lot of times out there hitting it to 30 feet is a good spot," Poston said. "You've just got to realize that, even if it is with a 9-iron.

"I felt like I did a good job staying patient. I was glad to see to pay off. I putted it nice, too. Every time I needed to make a good par putt to keep the round going I did, so it was just a good day."

Spieth's round featured six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey, and a lot of hand-wringing and conversations with his golf ball.

"We knew ahead of time we were going to get the kind of raw end of the deal this week (with the draw) but it happens," Spieth said. "It evens out over time. It's a bit of a bummer when it happens.

"Last year, I was on the bad end of the draw this week by two and a half shots, and we won by three. It doesn't mean you can't come through. We saw two of our three leaders come out of the afternoon wave today, so if you're hitting the fairways out here and you're giving yourself some looks, they'll pour in."

Only 33 players in the starting field of 121 golfers broke par on Thursday. The players in the morning wave shot two strokes less than those in the afternoon wave (70.49-72.67).

NOTES: Seung-Yul Noh of South Korea withdrew after an opening round 76. ... In his first event after a resounding win at The Players Championship, 21-year-old Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who resides in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, shot a 72 after recording playing the front-nine (his final nine holes) in 4-over-par. ... Steve Stricker, captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team later this season, also shot 72 on Thursday. Stricker won this event in 2009 and is playing the tournament for the 11th time. ... The Colonial Country Club course record is 61, shared by Chad Campbell (2004), Justin Leonard (2003), Kenny Perry (2003), Greg Kraft (1999), Keith Clearwater (1993) and Lee Janzen (1993).

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