June 26 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
It's quite likely that future comparisons between winners of the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club's Blue Course will begin in earnest with absent defending champion Tiger Woods. After the third edition in 2009, the Poa annua grass on the greens was replaced with Bentgrass that could be prepared to run as long as 14.5 on the Stimpmeter. The layout was also expanded by more than 300 yards and par was increased by one to 71. These modifications occurred in advance of the 2011 U.S. Open that Rory McIlroy won by eight with a tournament-record 16-under 268.
Woods posted 3-under 281 and won by one last year. Now that the Bentgrass has had an additional year to mature, the days of double digits under par (in 2008 and 2009 when it played as a par 70) are probably over.
Yet, you can draw an interesting parallel between all four winners of the AT&T National at Congressional. As a whole, they've missed only five of 215 chances from five feet and in. Stretch it another foot and focus only on the last three champions and you get a clip of 160-for-164 from six feet and closer. Woods didn't miss on any of his 44 chances from six feet in 2012. That connection overlooks the change of grass on the greens, so chalk it up to coincidence, albeit of the convincing variety.
More relevantly, as compared to the previous three winners, including himself in 2009, Woods failed to perform in 2012 in the three primary areas tee-to-green. He finished 34th in distance off the tee, T46 in fairways hit and T17 in greens in regulation. In the same categories, the worst any of the first three winners fared was Anthony Kim's T18 in driving accuracy in 2008. The following year, Woods ranked fourth in distance, T7 in fairways and T3 in GIR.
En route to building another mousetrap upon return last year, Woods led his field in scrambling and ranked T2 in par-4 scoring average. As we've discovered over the last couple of months during the annual stretch of difficult golf courses, par-4 scoring has emerged as a predominant statistic in recent years at just about every host course. Expect that to be the case again this week.