It should come as no surprise if Web.com Tour scoring averages take a tumble in 2013.
Three of last year’s toughest half-dozen courses don’t appear on the upcoming season’s schedule, with a fourth leaving the dicey climate of a fall date for the friendlier weather of late spring.
Add it all up, and it points to fewer strokes being added up after two years of marginal increases in the Tour’s scoring average. And as a few fast-starting 2012 graduates have shown on the PGA TOUR, it doesn’t take much enticement for guys to go low.
“It's just getting more and more competitive,” said new Sony Open champion Russell Henley, the first man since 2001 to win his rookie debut.
“If everybody could just get out of their own way a little bit – including me a lot of time – everybody could play some good golf out here. Everybody is very talented.”
The red-number forecast, of course, is bound to have exceptions. Newcomer Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind., set to host the very first Web.com Tour Finals stop, is a U.S. Golf Association and PGA of America favorite.
The Chiquita Classic also will have a new venue, moving to River Run Country Club in Davidson, N.C., after a one-year stay at The Club at Longview, one of the easier tracks in 2012. And it remains to be seen whether the Web.com Tour Finals will prompt tougher setups at its four sites.
Peering a little closer at the Tour’s lineup of courses…
• Moving out: As mentioned at the outset, the Tour won’t return to three of its six toughest venues from 2012. Topping the list was the Country Club at Soboba Springs, host of the Soboba Golf Classic and a 73.11 scoring average on a par-71 layout.
TPC Stonebrae was No.5 on the list (1.51 over par), followed by Miccosukee Golf & Country Club (1.33 over). Only three other courses averaged more than a stroke above par – TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, Panama GC and the Dye’s Valley course at TPC Sawgrass.
Just 14 Web.com Tour pros produced scoring averages in the 60s last year, fewest since 2008. With three tough tracks off the schedule, though, that number could rise.
• Newcomers: Sycamore Hills, which will stage the inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship in August, already has a notable pedigree. The Jack Nicklaus design spent the past three years as host of the Junior PGA Championship and is site of the U.S. Girls’ Junior this summer.
“We want to set a benchmark for all the Finals events,” Sycamore Hills general manager Eric Schneider said when the announcement was made.
Also joining the schedule is Brazil’s Sao Paulo Golf Club, which in April will stage the Brasil Champions Presented by HSBC. Designed in 1935 by Stanley Thompson and a young Robert Trent Jones, SPGC hosted a European Tour event in 2000 won by Padraig Harrington.
River Run CC, a Robert Walker/Raymond Floyd design, is a former eGolf Tour venue recently upgraded with new tees that will play more than 7,300 yards for the Chiquita Classic.
• On the move: TPC Potomac ranked No.2 behind Soboba Springs in difficulty, stemming in part from a damp, chilly October weekend that made winner David Lingmerth feel right at home.
“I was actually fist pumping in the car coming to the course,” Lingmerth said afterward. “This is a good day in Sweden.”
Now the renamed Mid-Atlantic Championship is scheduled to begin May 30. Average high temperature in metro Washington: 84 degrees.
The WNB Golf Classic also moved to the spring (April 11-14), as the Tour cleared the fall calendar for the Finals series and debut of the PGA TOUR’s wraparound season.
• The hole story: TPC Potomac’s par-4 11th hole holds the title of the Web.com Tour’s toughest of 2012, upholding a reputation that dates back to when the course (then TPC Avenel) was a PGA TOUR stop.
With Rock Run Creek still guarding the putting surface, No. 11 was the only hole (except those on the BMW Charity Pro-Am’s three courses) to yield fewer than 200 pars. Scoring average: 4.549.
Six of the next seven toughest, though, are among those no longer on the schedule – four at Soboba Springs, two at Miccosukee G&CC. Among those returning for 2013, El Bosque GC (Mexico Open) now holds the next two spots with Nos. 9 and 6.
• Frantic finish: Anyone needing a closing push to get into the Web.com Tour Finals will have to keep the accelerator fully pressed. Champions Run, where the Cox Classic will be the final regular-season stop, was the Tour’s easiest layout last year.
Last year's tournament produced a 68.76 scoring average, pros recording a birdie or eagle once every four holes. Three holes ranked among the Tour's 11 easiest.