By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
Since Tiger Woods polished off his sixth career victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2008, a colorful mixture of talent has risen to claim the trophy. From streaky Nick Watney in 2009 to the left-handed, to the long-hitting improviser Bubba Watson in 2011, to the notoriously deliberate Ben Crane in 2010, to one of golf's poster boys encouraging the pace of play, Brandt Snedeker in 2011, Americans blanketed Torrey Pines.
They serve as a microcosm for the variety of paths to victory. Yet, there are some parallels that we can draw.
At least two among the foursome finished inside the top six in greens in regulation, proximity to the hole and scrambling. Crane qualified in all three, leading his field in both GIR and scrambling while ranking sixth in proximity.
Watney was 25th in GIR but saved par better than everyone else. Watson led his field in GIR and proximity, which is a little like allowing the world's best archer stand nearer the target. In fact, that's exactly what happened as he finished No. 1 in distance off the tee as well.
An unusual connection that Watney, Crane and Watson share is that none finished better than 40th in strokes gained-putting, which has rapidly evolved into a telling formula for success almost every week. However, this is where Snedeker cracks the conversation. He finished 33rd in GIR and 43rd in proximity, but sixth in scrambling and ninth in strokes gained-putting.
So what underlying characteristic can we associate with all of the champions? Bogey avoidance.
Every year since 2002, the South Course at Torrey Pines has averaged over par. It comes as no surprise then that Watney, Crane, Watson and Snedeker finished inside the top seven in bogey avoidance en route to their victories. You can also go back to Woods' title in 2007 to support the argument. After ranking second in the category, he tied for first in 2008. Watney led his field in bogey avoidance in 2009; Crane tied for first in 2010.