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February 27 2013

3:00 PM

The Stats Suggest: The Honda Classic

By Rob Bolton, Fantasy Insider

In my Power Rankings on Monday, I cited that Rory McIlroy scored bogey-free 5-under on the two par 5s at PGA National en route to his title at last year's The Honda Classic. I then added that capitalizing on the holes was integral for success this week.

It's time to dig into that a little more.

Since The Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007, only two champions have finished inside the top 20 in par-5 scoring average during the week they won. Before McIlroy ranked T7 in 2012, Camilo Villegas co-led his field in 2010. Villegas also placed T1 in par-4 scoring average. Of the six editions, the Colombian holds the marks for lowest aggregate (13-under 267) and widest margin of victory (five strokes).

The total of the other five margins of victory equals five. Therefore, from a statistical standpoint, Villegas is the outlier. (Now three years removed, we can appreciate even more what he accomplished that week after making an early-week trek to his homeland to help kick-start the inaugural Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour.)

As it relates to scoring on the par 3s and 4s, all six victors ranked inside the top 10 in par-4 scoring average. Four placed inside the top five in par-3 scoring average; Mark Wilson ranked T27 in 2007 while Villegas was T14 in 2010. These splits make sense since most of the winners weren't picking up many strokes against the field on par 5s, but they always post the low aggregate.

Now, to the variable of bogey avoidance also mentioned in the Power Rankings, it's a goal that requires proficiency through most of the bag at PGA National. Getting up and down is imperative, but guys can take the pressure off scrambling by hitting their greens in regulation and limiting three-putts. It sounds elementary but the host course tests the quality of one's execution as well as any track on the PGA TOUR.

All but Rory Sabbatini (2011; T21) ranked inside the top 10 in GIR, but the South African led his field in scrambling. McIlroy then led his field in saving par during Sabbatini's title defense. All six winners ranked inside the top 25 in strokes gained-putting.

A round can unravel quickly, particularly as guys navigate The Bear Trap -- McIlroy was bogey-free 3-under on holes 15, 16 and 17 last year -- so a confident short game and greenside touch will reveal who came to grind.

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