Jordan Spieth was the Masters champion with another victory and a couple of runner-up finishes when he got to Colonial last year, a few weeks before winning the U.S. Open.
This time at Hogan's Alley, at the tournament now known as the Dean & Deluca Invitational, Spieth arrives with one win and his only runner-up finish this season coming after he squandered a five-stroke lead on the back nine when trying to defend his title at Augusta.
"Last year, I was, I think, making a few more mid-range putts than I have this year, but overall I feel like I'm still stroking it the same. I feel like the way I'm striking the ball has been the same," Spieth said before playing a pro-am round Wednesday with Bill Murray. "Recently, I've been trying to get back to the consistency my swing was at last year, so I'd say maybe that's it. Just a little bit in the fine-tuning of the ball-striking, but it's coming around now."
Spieth is still home for the back half of this Texas two-step and a few weeks away from the U.S. Open. The world's No. 2-ranked player and Dallas native was in the final group alone in second place last weekend, but he finished tied for 18th after a closing 74 at the Byron Nelson, where six years earlier he played his first PGA Tour and made the cut as a 16-year-old amateur.
A 20-foot birdie on the final hole at Colonial last year put Spieth in a tie for second place, one stroke back after Chris Kirk recovered from an errant tee shot at No. 18 with a par-saving 7-foot putt clutch to avoid a playoff and clinch his fourth PGA Tour victory.
"That putt on 18 is certainly something I'll never forget," Kirk said.
While Spieth has had several guests at his Dallas home over these two weeks, Colonial member Ryan Palmer said his home is off-limits this week to everyone except his wife and kids.
Palmer sees the Wall of Champions by the No. 1 tee every time he plays a round at Colonial, where he and his caddie — who has won multiple club championships — are members. Palmer, who turns 40 in September, considers Colonial his fifth major.
"This is the No. 1 event on my schedule usually every year," Palmer said. "This tournament holds a special place in my heart. It's my dad's favorite. It will be a little tough this year. First one he's missed obviously with him passing in August."
Before missing the cut at Colonial last year, Palmer had a pair of fifth-place finishes that sandwiched a tie for 14th in a three-year span. He has never finished better there. He has only one top-10 finish in 14 starts this season.
Adam Scott, No. 7 in the world, finished tied for 24th last year as defending Colonial champion. He won in 2014 in a three-hole playoff against Jason Dufner to cap his first week as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
No. 20 Matt Kuchar was second at Colonial in 2013, but he missed the cut two years ago, when he arrived ranked No. 4 in the world with a chance to move to the top with a victory. While making his 51st tournament start since winning the 2014 Players Championship, he is playing well of late, with third-place finishes the past two weeks.
Former SMU golfer Colt Knost was almost as good at those two tournaments, matching Kuchar for third at The Players Championship and finishing tied for fourth behind him at the Nelson.
"Just riding a lot of confidence right now. I feel great about what I'm doing," Knost said. "Just excited to keep giving myself these chances. Keep putting myself in there with a chance to win, and I think I should have a great chance this week."