BY MIKE FIELDS
If you weren’t around for the Barbasol Championship last month and didn’t know the tournament was plagued by rain, ShotLink’s data for the PGA TOUR event would provide evidence of the wet weather that soaked Champions at Keene Trace.
Exhibit A: The average driving distance on the first hole decreased every day as precipitation moved into Central Kentucky. The players averaged 290 yards for the first round, played on a sunny Thursday. Then bad weather arrived and the fairways started giving up less roll. The average driving distance dropped to 279 yards for the second round, 274 for the third and 264 for the fourth.
Exhibit B: The number of drives on No. 1 that measured 300 yards or longer declined each day. There were 42 in the first round, nine in the second and just one in each of the last two rounds.
Tom Lovelady, who tied for runner-up behind winner Troy Merritt, led the Barbasol Championship in driving distance for the week, averaging 316.8 yards. He also had the two longest drives of the tournament: 373 yards on No. 13 and 371 yards on No. 14.
That’s only a small sampling of the statistics compiled by ShotLink.
Brad Hicks, the club pro at Champions at Keene Trace, said his main takeaway from the Barbasol Championship data is that “players at this level know where to play away from the trouble.”
As an example, he noted how well they avoided the fairway bunker on the left side of the first hole. “There were almost as many balls hit to the right rough as in the fairway, and only seven balls found the bunker the entire tournament. That’s pretty incredible.”
Hicks also pointed out that most of the players avoided trouble on No. 3 by hitting something other than driver. The average driving distance on that hole was 247 yards for the week.
Among other stats from the Barbasol Championship:
- The toughest hole for the pros was No. 9. The par 4 played to an average score of 4.122. The second toughest was No. 7. The par 3 played to an average of 3.067. The front and back nines at Champions at Keene Trace were flipped for the tournament, so club members play those holes as No. 18 and No. 16. Obviously, they would make for a more difficult closing stretch for the Barbasol Championship, but Hicks said because of “the atmosphere we get from flipping the nines from a spectator standpoint, it’s a no-brainer” to finish instead with a par-3.
- Speaking of the par-3 18th, only 5 players hit their tee ball into the lake that’s between the tee and green. “That shows me the water is not really in play,” Hicks said.
- The easiest hole for the pros was No. 6, a par 5 that’s easily reachable in 2 shots. It played to an average of score 4.383, yielded 10 eagles, 243 birdies, 137 pars and only nine bogeys.
- 14, another par 5 that’s reachable in 2, gave up the most eagles (16) and had an average score of 4.468.
- Despite the rain, the greens maintained their speed all week, ranging from 11 to 11.8 on the stimpmeter.
- Of the 402 total rounds played during the tournament, 329 were even-par or below. Only 73 rounds were over par.
- Troy Merritt, who won the Barbasol Championship, ranked 16th in driving distance (291.2), tied for fifth in greens in regulation (84.7%), and was 46th in total length of putts made (267 feet, 2 inches).
Merritt tied the course record with a 62 in the first round on his way to his 23-under total, but Hicks said he thought Champions at Keene Trace “held up well to what we see on tour these days.
There have been nine PGA TOUR tournaments this season with a winning score of 20-under or lower, including the John Deere Classic (Michael Kim at 27-under), the CIMB Classic (Pat Perez at 24-under), the Sentry Tournament of Champions (Dustin Johnson at 24-under), and the Canadian Open (DJ, again, at 23-under).
Since Champions at Keene Trace had so much rain and the greens were so soft, the pros were able to fire at will at the pins, setting themselves up for a birdie-fest.
Billy Horschel, who tied for second at the Barbasol Championship, said he thought the scores would have been 10 shots higher if Champions at Keene Trace had been firm and fast.
“You would’ve seen a lot more players miss the greens, especially coming out of the rough,” he said. “I’d love to see how the course would play firm and fast. Hopefully we’ll get that next July.”