Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
Labeling TPC Sawgrass as Pete Dye's most innovative or most devilish or you-fill-in-the-superlative is a relative discussion for your local 19th hole, but there is no question that the legendary architect mastered the art of nuance all over the host course for THE PLAYERS.
The PGA TOUR's flagship event celebrates its 40th playing this week. It always boasts the deepest field of any non-major. This has a great deal to do with the fact that there's never been a repeat champion since the tournament began in 1974 at Atlanta Country Club. Since TPC Sawgrass first hosted in 1982, only four of the 31 winners have posted as many as two titles at the tournament, and none since Davis Love III in 2003. Of that quartet, only Steve Elkington (1991, 1997) didn't wait over a decade to secure victory No. 2.
While most envision the peninsula green at the famous par-3 17th hole as Dye's signature -- and make no mistake, it is, indeed -- par-72 TPC Sawgrass plays more like a carnival game where the house always wins. However, the law of averages eventually swings toward those with experience. Seven of the last eight champions required a minimum of seven appearances prior to their victories. This includes Matt Kuchar, who defends this week. He won in his eighth trip.
After two years of averaging par or better, TPC Sawgrass scored 72.466 in 2012, fifth-highest among 20 par 72s in non-majors. It's properly described as a ball-striker's track. Since the tournament was shifted to May to coincide with the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, it's averaged among the six longest in proximity to the hole from the rough. Last year's clip of 51'1" was second among all measured courses.
Scoring on the par 3s and 4s is firm but fair, so the mindset upon arrival should be to take advantage of the par 5s, which are gettable. Its fairways-hit percentage of 60.89 a year ago was the lowest since 2007, but it still managed to record its second-highest greens-in-regulation split (64.04 percent) of the last six years.
The notable par 5-3-4 closing stretch averaged 11.937 in 2012 (-0.063 strokes to par). That's primarily due to the 16th hole where everyone in the field of 145 must be thinking birdie (or better) to build a cushion for the demanding finish on the 7,215-yard layout.
Although a weekend deluge closed the course to spectators on Monday, those attending should enjoy warm, dry weather for the majority of the week. A cynic's chance of rain enters the forecast on Friday, but the greater relative threat is not expected to arrive until Sunday. Winds may freshen ever so slightly throughout the week.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among winners of THE PLAYERS Championship in the FedExCup era, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
|Power Rankings: THE PLAYERS Championship|