By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
If you ever wondered how much of a quantifiable difference that grass can contribute to scoring, consider that in its last edition with Bentgrass greens in 2007, East Lake Golf Club ranked third-easiest in putts per greens in regulation at 1.732. Given that the field of that week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola hit a beefy 71.76 percent of its GIR, it was a feast. Zach Johnson carded a course-record 60 while Tiger Woods established the tournament record of 23-under 257. The overall scoring average was 68.325, second-lowest of any par 70 since record-keeping began in earnest in 1982. (Sedgefield Country Club averaged 68.183 for the 2010 Wyndham Championship.)
While Rees Jones did more than just plant Miniverde Bermudagrass greens during his overhaul of East Lake following the first TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola of the FedExCup era, the highest GIR clip that any field since has registered is 67.92 percent in 2011. (The low of 59.95 percent occurred in 2008.) The putts-per-GIR splits have ranged from 1.773 (in 2010) to 1.791 (in 2008). Fewer birdie opportunities and an increase in puts translates into higher scores. To wit, defending champion Brandt Snedeker owns the lowest winning aggregate on the Miniverde at 10-under 280. He led his field in par-4 scoring and putting inside 10 feet (60-for-63).
With only 30 in the field, at least one-third will crack the top 10 in every statistic, but of relevant angles, consider that the last six champions share top 10s in only strokes gained-putting, par-4 and par-5 scoring. As it often is on most weeks, distance off the tee is irrelevant, but hitting fairways at East Lake carries value. Woods (T14) and Phil Mickelson (T12; 2009) are the exceptions, but both cleaned up on approach and with their putters.
Bill Haas sets up as the outlier. He ranked a set-worst 11th in greens hit and 29th in scrambling, but converted on all but two chances from eight feet and in. He's also the only champion of the FedExCup Playoffs finale to lead his field in strokes gained-putting.