By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods took control of the lead with his course-record tying 61 on Friday and spent the weekend protecting that lead. He was never challenged and took few chances. Woods was second in greens in regulation, hitting 53 of 72, and fifth in total putts with 30, 22, 25 and 33 over four days. He led the field in total birdies with 19 and perhaps most importantly Woods was first in proximity to the cup, hitting it to an average of 25 feet, 8 inches. He did not just give himself birdie putts, he had makeable birdie putts.
Sunday, winds made the golf course much more difficult and Woods could just grind out pars and cruise to victory.
It was important to notice Tiger continued to hit drivers on the weekend when it wasn’t necessary. He wound up 11th in fairways hit and you wonder if Woods pounded so many drivers this weekend knowing it would be necessary to bang drivers at next week’s PGA Championship.
Front nine: Players struggled on the outward nine the entire week -- with the exception of Tiger Woods. He was 10 under on the front nine, making just one bogey on that portion of the golf course for the week. Consider, if Woods only played the front nine and turned in a score for those difficult 36 holes, he still would have beaten the field at 10 under.
Ninth: A major reason the front nine was so difficult was the ninth hole. Players are leaving Akron with smiles on their faces because they don’t have to play that hole again for another year. It’s a 502-yard, par-4 with an elevated green that played to a stroke average of 4.397 with three birdies, 41 pars, 25 bogeys and three doubles. Compare those numbers with the par-5 second, which played to a 4.342 scoring average.
Conditions: It was much more windy in the final round than in the previous three and players had to adjust. Players expected that wind to dry the greens and increase the speed but the putting surfaces may have been a touch slower in the final round and that required adjustment as well.
Hello: One of the great things about World Golf Championships is the field. You see players you don’t get to watch in most other PGA TOUR events. Kiradech Aphibarnrat arrived from Thailand with an unfamiliar name but showed us big game. Chris Wood is a European Tour veteran that was very impressive in both stature and game. It’s hard for a player to be 6-foot-6 and still have good posture but Wood caught everyone’s attention this week.
Comparison: This week was great preparation for the PGA Championship in that both Firestone Country Club and Oak Hill Country Club are very similar. Both are tree-lined with elevation changes and little water. The grasses in the fairways, rough and greens are almost identical. Look for players who performed well this week to play well at the PGA.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.