By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
If you were going to prioritize the most important elements of a new course to mature, at the top would be the greens. Among other more complicated agronomical factors, new grass needs to grow strong roots to sustain consistency over the long-term. Once established, the touring pros who return every year can tap into their memory banks without concern for deviation. Until then, leaderboards may surprise and the likelihood for a first-time winner remains elevated.
Four of the seven winners at TPC Louisiana, which opened in 2003, broke through for their first PGA TOUR victory. However, defending champion Jason Dufner is the only first-timer of the last four winners, so it's fair to say that the course is in its prime. Those with experience on it should occupy space on most leaderboards versus those still learning how to play it.
Focusing only on the last four champions, they support the theory that the putting surfaces have been true for years now. During their victories, Jerry Kelly (2009), Jason Bohn (2010), Bubba Watson (2011) and Dufner (2012) are a collective 228-for-231 (or 98.7 percent) in conversions measuring 7 feet and shorter. Bohn and Dufner didn't miss in 53 and 61 attempts, respectively. What's more, each had competed at least once at TPC Louisiana prior to winning, so the odds are stacked against a first-time competitor emerging with the trophy this week.
Furthermore, beyond that staggering putting split, each champ ranked inside the top 10 in par-4 scoring average. Kelly and Bohn finished inside the top 10 in par-3 scoring but outside the top 10 on par 5s. Watson and Dufner were the opposite -- outside the top 10 in par-3 scoring and inside the top five on par 5s.
TPC Louisiana can stretch to 7,425 yards, which has some fans thinking long ball this week. However, of the seven winners, only Watson (first) ranked among the top 15 in distance off the tee en route to his title. Four ranked 35th or lower. Meanwhile, Bohn (T2) was the only champion to sit inside the top 10 in fairways hit. Five have ranked T30 or worse in accuracy.
Until Dufner settled at T25 in greens in regulation, each of the previous five winners finished inside the top 10 in creating birdie opportunities. Yet, he and Ernie Els (also T25 in GIR last year) share the tournament record of 19 under. That's largely due to Dufner's stellar putting, which also laid the foundation for a lofty rank of sixth in scrambling. (Els was second in scrambling and went 57-for-57 in putting from 7 feet and in.)