FORT WORTH, Texas – On Tuesday, university officials are going to name the press box at nearby TCU stadium after legendary sports writer Dan Jenkins.
The Fort Worth native is as much a part of this community as BBQ and Ben Hogan. Well, BBQ for sure. But it does make one wonder why the press center at Colonial isn’t already named in his honor.
Just imagine if the all-world scribe, who made a cameo at Colonial earlier this week, was perched behind his laptop at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational on Saturday.
His signature simplicity would probably recall that 54-hole front-runner Webb Simpson is the guy who won the U.S. Open that should have gone to Jim Furyk if not for a filthy set-up curveball from the USGA on Sunday.
That Stewart Cink, who is tied for fourth place with Kevin Kisner and three shots off Simpson’s pace, is the guy who won Tom Watson’s Open Championship in ’09 at Turnberry; and Paul Casey – who is tied for second place at 7 under with Danny Lee – was last seen dusting off the American side with a walk-off ace at the 2006 Ryder Cup.
None of that is fair or even accurate – Simpson has won since his U.S. Open breakthrough in ’12 and Casey has reinvented himself into a top-15 player – but then Jenkins’ gift has always been his insightful brevity.
Jenkins would have commented about Saturday’s heat, which included a heat index of 108 degrees. Perhaps figuring that Texas has four seasons – drought, flood, blizzard and twister. He’d also probably make a biting observation over the lack of brisket in the Dan Jenkins Press Center media dining.
But most of all, Jenkins would marvel at the play through three windswept and simmering days at Colonial, which includes a shrine to the World Golf Hall of Famer in the clubhouse.
Having played Colonial regularly, perhaps even with Hogan himself, he would consider Simpson’s third-round 67 something much more impressive than the sum of its math.
Simpson had just a single bogey on Day 3, played the aptly named Horrible Horseshoe, Nos. 3 through 5, in even par and pulled away from the field with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 for a two-stroke advantage on a course that rarely allows that type of breathing room.
“I'm thrilled to have the lead. I think it's been awhile. I don't know how long it's been,” said Simpson, who dropped an overtime decision to Hideki Matsuyama earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “I was happy to go out in the last group today and hit some good shots, make some good putts in this environment to kind of get me ready for tomorrow.”
Jenkins would recognize the journey that Casey has been on the last few years as he recovered from injury and off-course distractions to become a world-class player again. He’s found the consistency he once enjoyed but now must discover a way to translate that into trophies.
At 39 years old, perspective has become a sympathetic counterpart for the Englishman.
“It's pressure every week. It’s still a stacked leaderboard. A lot of very talented, brilliant guys near the top of it,” Casey said. “I feel a pretty good calmness. Yeah, I'd desperately love to win and I will try my best tomorrow. I don't know, 17 years of doing this I'm certainly not soft, but there is more calm than there used to be.”
Cink’s story would resonate with Jenkins. Although the six-time Tour winner described Colonial as “cute,” which is probably not what anyone this side of the Trinity River would care to hear, he is playing this season on a career money list exemption; think of it as a lifeline for those who aren’t interested in the golden fairways of the PGA Tour Champions just yet.
Cink missed six weeks last year to be with his wife, Lisa, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and understandably struggled for much of 2016. But if sentimentality doesn’t make fans for Cink, his perspective after two decades on Tour surely counts for style points.
“It's exciting to get a chance,” he said of his Sunday outlook. “I think in your career out here, season after season, you give yourself five or six chances to win, being in the mix on Sunday, and of one of those times it might happen; maybe more.”
Jenkins may also point out it hasn’t been a great week for chalk, with the week’s top-ranked players struggling with the wind and heat.
Jordan Spieth, whose caddie succumbed to heat exhaustion and had to be replaced midway through the round, avoided the type of early lapse that defined his first two rounds at Colonial, but failed to make up any ground on the lead with a 2-under 68 that left him tied for eighth place, five shots back.
Phil Mickelson rebounded on Saturday with a 69, but his 5-over card on Friday means he’ll start the final lap in the middle of the pack; and Jenkins may have appreciated Sergio Garcia’s purple pants, TCU’s colors, if not his 1-over card or the 29 putts he needed to finish his Saturday.
But most of all, Jenkins would point out the brilliance of Colonial, which is something of a museum piece on the modern Tour at just over 7,200 yards, but has once again produced a crowded and compelling leaderboard.