PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Numbers never lie when it comes to Tiger Woods.
His 78 career victories on the PGA TOUR have come at just 25 tournaments. More than half -- 41, to be exact -- have happened at the same venue at least four times with eight apiece coming at Bay Hill and Torrey Pines alone.
Yet when it comes to THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, there’s another number that stands out: One.
As in he has just one victory here, which came a dozen years ago during one of the most torrid stretches of golf the game has ever seen.
It is also one of only eight events that Woods has but just a single victory at.
(As a side note, Woods typically only still plays three of them: THE PLAYERS, Duetsche Bank Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship, though even the latter he skipped this year because of a schedule change.)
Woods isn’t alone when it comes to being confounded by TPC Sawgrass, however. Since the event moved across the street from Sawgrass Country Club in 1982, only Hal Sutton, Davis Love III and Fred Couples have won here more than once.
Then again, only five of Woods’ victories have come at a TPC course of any kind -- Boston, Sugarloaf, Summerlin, Las Colinas and here.
Sure, Woods has had his moments: He was in contention in 2009 before tumbling to eighth after a final-round 73; Ditto 2002 when he finished 14th after a final-round 74; And in 2000, he finished second by a stroke after Sutton’s be-the-right-club-today 6-iron on the final hole to win by one.
But Woods also has just one top 10 here since 2001 and has failed to break 70 over the course of a week on a half-dozen occasions.
“You go to Doral or you go to Torrey Pines, and the best players pretty much win every year,” said Johnny Miller. “It's a straightforward course. You can get away with stuff.
Woods comments before THE PLAYERS
“(The top players) can't play this course. It frustrates them and you end up with guys like a Jodie Mudd or something. You have no idea who is going to win this thing.”
To that end, the list of champions has varied widely: From Phil Mickelson, to Fred Funk; from Greg Norman, to Craig Perks.
Why? Because, as Woods points out, "We're all playing to the same spots."
TPC Sawgrass is also a venue that Woods has never felt particularly comfortable on.
“It’s one of those courses where they’ve got some tough lines and if you’re not playing well, you’re going to get exposed,” Woods said. “You have to drive the ball really well and then on top of that now that it’s gone to Bermuda these greens have gotten a lot more fiery. You miss these greens at all, you’ve got some of the weirdest, funky little shots that you’ll ever face.”
And it’s not just the greens. Tee boxes often point toward trouble, and players aren’t short-sided on just one side of the greens if they miss, they can be short-sided on three sides.
“A great example of that is No. 1, that back left corner,” Woods said.
That hole that has never set up all that well for Woods, who last made birdie there in 2006.
“Some of the holes suit my eye, some don’t, but a lot of it is based on wind, what direction it’s coming from and what shape I’m hitting well at the moment,” Woods said. “Some days I’m drawing the ball better, some days I’m cutting the ball better.
“I’ve hit 5-iron (into the par-3 17th). That was one of the tougher shots I’ve ever faced. Not a good hole to hit 5-iron into.”
But just as important as how you finish is how you start.
“The first round is really important,” Miller said. “If Tiger or Phil or any of these guys, if they can get off to a good start, then they have probably have a good chance, but if they don't, they don't.”
Know how many times Woods has broken 70 in the opening round? Fewer times than he’s won here.
“Some of the years I’ve driven it well and not hit my irons well, and other years I’ve hit the ball great and not putted well, and other years I drove it awful and didn’t score well,” Woods said.
There have also been swing changes, injuries and personal transgressions along the way.
Like Miller said, TPC Sawgrass can expose you. No matter what Woods has tried, he’s never been able to master this place the way he has others.
Nick Faldo has never had much success at TPC Sawgrass either, with just five top 25s in 21 appearances. But he did have one runner-up here, along with some advice for Woods.
“Keep the driver in the bag, don't even need to hit it,” he suggested. “I’d take it out and put another wedge in if I was Tiger. That might come in very useful.”
Or it might not matter.
Miller had perhaps the best explanation when it comes to Woods’ -- or anyone else’s woes -- at TPC Sawgrass.
Said Miller: “It's called Pete Dye.”