Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Winning Players Formula: Hit Greens in Regulation; Driver Minimized at Stadium, Yet Day Led Field in Distance off Tee Last Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Winning Players Formula: Hit Greens in Regulation; Driver Minimized at Stadium, Yet Day Led Field in Distance off Tee Last Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

What does it take to win a Players Championship?

What skills are most important? What should the target score be for 72 holes? For Thursday? For Sunday?

All good questions, and after 35 Players Championship held at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, there are some good answers.

It's the abiding characteristic of the course that it doesn't favor any one game or skill but it also doesn't require every skill be at peak form to win.

Hitting fairways and greens and making putts is the goal of every player in every tournament, but the common denominator of the 35 winners at the Stadium Course is that they find the putting surface with their approach shots much more often than not - almost three-quarters of the time: .7274, to be exact, which means a Players winner hits about 13 of the 18 greens per round.

Ten Players winners have led the field in greens in regulation 10 times, were among the top-five 19 times, and among the top-10 23 times. The average Players champion is 10th in greens in regulation.

Hitting greens leads to a lot of two-putts so the number of putts per round isn't crucial to winning a Players. Winners at the Stadium Course average 28.16 putts per round and on average rank 21st in the field.

The three Players champions who averaged the most putts per round, Steve Elkington in 1991 (31.25), Sergio Garcia in 2008 (31.0) and Fred Funk in 2005 (30.5), all led the field in greens in regulation that week.

Hitting fairways is important but not vitally so. Players winners have a .7173 percentage in hitting the 14 fairways off the tee, an average of 10 per round. That figure is boosted by the fact that driving distance is utterly unimportant and most players use the driver only on a handful of holes.

Five Players champions have led the field in driving accuracy and 11 were among the top-10. But the average Players champion is only 27th in driving accuracy.

The average driving distance for a winner is 277.23 yards. Last year, Jason Day became the first tournament winner ever to not only lead the field in driving distance but to average more than 300 yards. He averaged 311.6 yards per measured drive, shattering Rickie Fowler's tournament record of 295.6 set the year before.

A Players champion also can be just a touch off in one category or the other. Only four champions - Hal Sutton in 2000, Fred Couples in 1996, Greg Norman in 1994 and Nick Price in 1993 - finished among the top-10 in driving distance, driving accuracy and greens in regulation. And only Norman added a top-10 in putts per round. Then again, he set the course record that year at 24-under 264.

Day won by four shots despite tying for 51st in driving accuracy. Fowler tied for 43rd in hitting fairways and for 51st in hitting greens, but saved himself by needing only 26. …

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