By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
TPC Boston has undergone a series of tweaks and improvements over the years, but for the sake of this feature, we'll call it a wash in the long term. It's been host of the Deutsche Bank Championship since 2003, but played similarly since Gil Hanse went to work in 2006 as the dawn of FedExCup approached. The course was shortened 208 yards to 7,207. It's played no longer than 7,216 since, and will again this week. It's always been a par 71.
The course setup and the timing of the tournament requires the field of 100 to play aggressively and leave nothing in the bag. TPC Boston is annually among the easiest third to pick off eagles and birdies, so the mentality is to go low. With generous fairways, greens that average 6,500 square feet and putting surfaces prepped to run a welcome 11.5 on the Stimpmeter, it's no wonder that the average winning aggregate since 2007 is 265.33 or nearly 19 under.
Long hitters have thrived, evidenced by Phil Mickelson (fourth in distance) in 2007, Charley Hoffman (10th) in 2010 and defending champion Rory McIlroy (T5), but Steve Stricker (38th in 2009) and Webb Simpson (40th in 2011) have also flourished. As you'd expect with shootouts, hitting fairways en route to victory is often more coincidental than pivotal.
Turning our attention to scoring opportunities, as we've learned throughout the year in this space, success is more often defined by putting, not piling up greens in regulation. Hot putting overcomes wayward irons just as long as there's a competitive balance between conversions and mis-hits. While three of the last six winners have finished inside the top 10 in GIR the week they won (versus only two cracking the top 10 in strokes gained-putting), putting remains the primary factor. All six winners of the Deutsche Bank Championship during the FedExCup era ranked among the top 10 in scrambling.
On a course where the field understands that escaping with pars every so often is different than grinding out the same on a more difficult venue, it knows that it can -- and has to -- keep the pedal down to make noise.