November 6 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
After its first three years contested in October, The McGladrey Classic takes a temporary spot in early November before returning to a mid-October date in 2014. Often times, a shift on the calendar changes how a course is set up or even played -- think Pebble Beach in 2010 when it followed its customary mid-February annual PGA TOUR stop with the U.S. Open in June -- but the variance of a few weeks in the fall will be negligible at Sea Island's Seaside Course.
Or will it? The weather forecast on Friday calls for sustained winds at around 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. The temperature may not hit 65 degrees. Conditions before and after are expected to be more favorable for, you know, playing golf, but the fourth edition of the tournament is already setting up like it will be an anomaly.
How it plays out remains to be seen, but the last two champions made their marks with memorable final rounds sparked by incredible putting. In 2011, Ben Crane famously holed eight birdies on his last 11 holes to set up a playoff with Webb Simpson. Crane's strokes gained-putting split in the finale was 4.429.
Defending champion Tommy Gainey trumped Crane's feat. All Gainey did was post a bogey-free, 10-under 31-29--60 that featured an eagle and eight birdies en route to a strokes gained-putting metric of 5.119 for the round. His set of conversions included a 41-footer, two just outside 20 feet and another three from 10-14 feet. His eagle came courtesy of a hole-out from a greenside bunker at the par-5 15th.
In their respective tournaments, Crane ranked second and Gainey third in strokes gained-putting. Crane was perfect on 60 attempts from nine feet and in while Gainey finished fourth in average distance of putts made at 102 feet, 9 inches. Each made only seven bogeys all week.
Heath Slocum's route to success in the inaugural edition in 2010 was vintage for him, but it's the exception as compared to the two ensuing winners. Slocum ranked fourth in fairways hit and T7 in greens in regulation, but 39th in strokes gained-putting. He ranked T20 in scrambling -- best of the threesome -- but he missed only 13 GIR all week and squared just five bogeys.
Once again, however, all three share a characteristic that has been all-too-common in this space -- success on par 4s. Each led his field on the par-70 track. In par-3 and par-5 scoring, the only winner that cracked the top 25 in either was Crane, who placed T25 on the one-shotters.