Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus notwithstanding, has no equal in the game of golf, and one reason for his total world domination is the command he exerts at venues like Torrey Pines.
Woods, who this week goes for his eighth Farmers Insurance Open win and ninth overall victory at Torrey, has such total control of his game on the La Jolla, Calif., track that he was able to zone out a tad down the stretch last year as the pace slowed to a crawl and still cruise to a four-stroke victory on one of his favorite courses.
"I started losing my patience out there. It was just so friggin' slow," Woods said after posting a weather-delayed final-round 3-under 69 that included four dropped shots over the last five holes. "We played just over three hours and nine holes, and three of them are par-threes.
"It's like, come on, you know," said Woods, who left runners-up Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater and the rest of the field in his dust on his way to cadging his 75th PGA Tour win. "I started losing my patience a little bit, and that's when I made a few mistakes."
Should Woods finish in first place come Sunday, not only would he break his own record, since he also has seven Ws each at Bay Hill and Firestone, but, as ESPN sabermetrician Justin Ray noted, he would be the first PGA Tour golfer to win nine times on the same course.
So, what’s the secret to Tiger’s success in the decade and a half in which he’s competed in the former Buick Invitational, now the Farmers? Ray did a little ciphering and came up with some astounding numbers -- beyond the measly three rounds over par he’s carded in those 13 starts -- that explain why Woods reigns supreme at Torrey.
Best 1-liner encompassing Tiger's Torrey mastery: career at this event - 7 wins, 3 rounds over par.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) January 21, 2014
Ray broke down Woods’ success on the par-5s, noting that Tiger has led the league in overall par-5 scoring 10 times in 14 years in which he qualified for the stat. His numbers at Torrey, however, are almost literally off the charts:
|Tiger Woods Par-5 stats at Farmers Ins. Open|
(Stats via ESPN/Justin Ray)
That’s a breathtaking 135-under par in the 204 Farmers’ par-5s Woods has played and birdied or eagled an other-worldly 67 percent of the time. Small wonder that Tiger has never scored lower than T12 on the par-5s in his seven wins, with four first- or second-place finishes.
Putting has not been Woods’ forte at Torrey, as last year’s 37th-place ranking in strokes gained-putting can attest. But, as Ray noted, Tiger went 16-for-16 on putts from 10 feet or closer -- more than enough to take him to the winner’s circle.
Laser-beam precision with his wedges have helped Woods overcome any putting deficiencies he’s exhibited at Torrey. As examples, Ray noted that in 2008, Tiger was first among his peers in getting the ball closest to the hole from between 50 and 75 yards out, second in 2007 from between 50 and 125 yards, and fourth in 2005 from between 150 and 175 yards.
"Tiger gets the ball closer to the hole more often than pretty much everyone else," Ray wrote. "Combine that with the clutch putting mentioned earlier, and you have an apparent recipe for absolute course dominance."
If Woods is true to his historic Torrey form this week, the defending champ will nail his 80th tour triumph to put himself two shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82. Ray, looking ahead to the other two title defenses Woods faces before the Masters in April, observed that Tiger, now 38, could conceivably tie Snead before heading to Augusta.
"Snead won his 80th PGA Tour event when he was 47 years old," Ray said. "Tiger could not win another tournament for nearly another decade, and he would still be ahead of Snead's pace."