March 20 2013
Tiger Woods hits his approach to the par-5 sixth at Bay Hill in 2011. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Rob Bolton, Fantasy Insider
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On the road to 76 PGA TOUR victories, Tiger Woods has obliterated par 5s. This is no secret. And if he's going to pick off No. 77 in what would be his eighth title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he'll need to keep it floored on holes 4, 6, 12 and 16 that make up the quartet of par 5s at Bay Hill.
Focusing only on the last three editions of the tournament since its return to a par of 72 (after three years as a par 70), both Woods and 2011 champ Martin Laird led their fields in par-5 scoring average. Ernie Els finished T2 in the stat en route to his victory in 2010. For all intents and purposes, we could call it a day right there. Go low on the par 5s or go home.
Of course, that would be overlooking that Els (T3), Laird (T7) and Woods (1st) also did work on the par 4s during their victories. This is the only other relevant category where all three rank inside the top 10. Elsewhere, both Els and Laird placed fourth in total driving. Els was T9 in greens in regulation; Woods co-led his field in greens hit. Els (9th) and Woods (4th) also ranked highly in strokes gained-putting, but Woods co-led last year's event in both scrambling and bogey avoidance. Els didn't crack his top 20 in either.
So it goes. Woods was vintage at Bay Hill in 2012, but it was merely an extension of his incomparable record at one of his favorite venues. Yet, it cannot be overemphasized just how dominant he's been on the par 5s, both at Bay Hill and throughout his career as a professional.
In the 14 seasons he's be eligible for official rankings since he joined the PGA TOUR in 1997, he's finished first in par-5 scoring average 10 times (1997-2003, 2005, 2006, 2009). He's also finished second twice (2007, 2013), T5 once (2002) and T6 once (2012).
In his 15 starts as a pro at the API -- including all three times Bay Hill played as a par 70 (2007-2009), he's 113 strokes under par on the par 5s. The breaks down to six eagles, 116 birdies, 83 pars, seven bogeys and four doubles in 216 total occurrences.
He's gone as low as 14-under on the par 5s in a single week (2000) and has won on five of the six occasions (all during par-72 years) he hit double digits under par in one event. The exception was his first appearance as a pro in 1997 when he scored bogey-free 11-under but settled for a share of ninth place on the leaderboard.