By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
As we transition from course to course, it's not often that the same statistic connecting champions in a given tournament emerges the following week as well. Certainly, as has been chronicled time and again in this weekly feature, there are many different formulas past champions have used to hoist their hardware, but it's just as notable to appreciate the similarities.
Once again this week, par-4 scoring average has been the ticket for recent winners of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, a par-70 layout. This was the case at par-72 TPC Sawgrass and again at last week's stop at par-70 TPC Four Seasons. On cue and in line with their predecessors, both Tiger Woods (THE PLAYERS Championship) and Sang-Moon Bae (HP Byron Nelson Championship) ranked inside the top 10 in par-4 scoring en route their victories.
Focusing on the last six Crowne Plaza Invitationals at Colonial, three winners have either led or co-led their fields in par-4 scoring, two ranked second and one placed 10th (Rory Sabbatini, 2007). What's interesting is that, until last year, the par 4s at Colonial had largely rolled over for the field. They were among the easiest grouping of par 4s on the schedule in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Its rank of 17th last year marked the first time since 2004 that Colonial finished inside the top half of the most challenging sets on TOUR.
Of course, when you think of Colonial, phrases like shot-maker, ball-striker and tree-lined pop into mind. However, the data doesn't necessarily corroborate those modifiers. Sabbatini ranked 60th in fairways hit and 55th in greens in regulation before winning in a playoff in 2007. He made up for it on the greens, converting on all 57 opportunities from 7 feet and in.
Defending champion Zach Johnson also placed outside the top 25 in driving accuracy and GIR, but he led his field in scrambling (21 of 27) and one-putt percentage (58.33).
The other four champions -- Phil Mickelson (2008), Steve Stricker (2009), Johnson (2010) and David Toms (2011) -- cracked the top six in greens hit. All six winners finished inside the top 15 in strokes gained-putting and top 16 in scrambling.
Not to be forgotten is the significance of experience. As noted in my Power Rankings, since Sergio Garcia broke through in his first appearance at Colonial in 2001, the average number of starts before a golfer's first title here is 8.22.