What attributes are the key to success on Pete Dye's TOUR courses?It takes a complete game to win at TPC Sawgrass. But what aspect is most important?May 11, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Looking for the perfect golfer to prosper on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass this week during THE PLAYERS Championship?
Carl Pettersson knows the attributes he would choose.
Of course, put those attributes together in one player and he'd likely contend anywhere on TOUR. But there are certainly players who have proven track records on Pete Dye courses like the Stadium, one of six to host PGA TOUR events in 2012.
One of his most iconic courses, aside from the Stadium, would have to be Harbour Town, longtime home of the RBC Heritage. Two other Dye-designed TPC courses -- TPC Louisiana and TPC River Highlands -- host the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Travelers Championship, respectively.
No player has had more success on a Pete Dye course than Davis Love III, who has two victories on the Stadium (one of four players who own that distinction) and five more wins at Harbour Town -- in three different decades, no less. In fact, the first of Love's 20 career wins came at Harbour Town, a course known for its tight fairways and tiny greens when he was a big-hitting 23-year-old more apt to overpower than finesse a course.
Stewart Cink's four Dye wins are evenly divided between Harbour Town and TPC River Highlands. The only other players competing in THE PLAYERS this week with multiple wins on Dye courses are Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard. Both have won the PGA TOUR's signature event at TPC Sawgrass while Mickelson won the Travelers Championship back-to-back and Leonard won the RBC Heritage in 2002.
Not surprisingly, Love owns the most top-10s on Pete Dye courses with 19. Next among current players is Ernie Els, who picked up his 12th when he lost in a playoff to Jason Dufner two weeks ago in the Zurich Classic. Cink is the only other player playing at TPC Sawgrass in double digits with 10.
At the Stadium Course, specifically, Love's seven top-10s since 1983 are second only to Nick Price's nine. Els, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh -- the latter playing out of TPC Sawgrass -- are the only other players competing this week with a chance to add to their four.
Of these veterans, Cink and Mickelson posted the lowest first-round scores of 71. Love shot even par while Singh posted a 73, Els and Woods are 2 over and Leonard shot 75. The overnight leaders, Ian Poulter and Martin Laird, are 7 under.
The tee shots at TPC Sawgrass are the most crucial, according to Pettersson, who won the RBC Heritage earlier this year. He says TPC Sawgrass is a "longer version" of Harbour Town Golf Links, although it's not as tight.
"If you can get it in the fairway, it's still pretty difficult but it's a lot easier to play from the fairway," said Pettersson, who shot 71 on Thursday. "I think if you can go around there and hit your driver well and your 3-wood well, you can shoot a nice score which is the trademark of a good golf course."
Geoff Ogilvy, who shot a first-round 70, puts the emphasis on the short game, though.
"Out of all the courses we play, (the Stadium is) the one course that nobody seems to do well on many times -- a course that we've played 15 times that Tiger's only won once," said the former U.S. Open champ. "It's different. I imagine it's something in the short game. ... It's a complete test; you do have to hit the ball very well. But there's probably never been a PLAYERS champ who hasn't (holed) long putts so I'll take putting."
The other two Dye Courses hosting TOUR events this year are new to the schedule -- and relatively unknown as far as competitive events are concerned.
Kiawah's Ocean course will host the PGA Championship in August. The windswept links consists of 10 holes that run along the Atlantic with the other eight parallel. All the players who competed in the 1991 Ryder Cup are playing the Champions Tour now, so it will be a brand new experience for those who make the season's final major.
Ditto for Crooked Stick, a collaboration between Dye and his wife Alice which will host the BMW Championship four weeks later. The course in Carmel, Ind., hosted the 1991 PGA won by John Daly but will be another relative unknown.