Tiger seeks to continue Firestone fireworks
Should Tiger Woods make it 8-of-14 this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he would become the first player in PGA Tour history to win eight times on the same course.
Trivia questionTiger Woods has the most career wins in World Golf Championship events (16). Who is second on that list? (Answer below)
He also would join Sam Snead as the only players to win the same event eight times: Snead won eight Greater Greensboro Open titles in 27 years at two different venues.
Over the next several years, Woods should have a ton of chances to win his eighth career event on a single course. He also has won seven PGA Tour events at Bay Hill and Torrey Pines. And although Woods skipped Torrey in 2012 for Abu Dhabi, he'll be the defending champion at The King's tournament in 2013.
Tiger also has won five times at both Muirfield (the Memorial) and Cog Hill (BMW Championship). Add it all up, and 41.9 percent (31-of-74) of Woods' career PGA Tour victories have come at just five venues.
That seems like a very high concentration of victories at few courses. Like almost all comparisons with Woods, we have only history to use as a barometer for his success -- his past or the achievements of the game's all-time elite.
So how does his course concentration compare to the other two members of the PGA Tour's 70-win club, Sam Snead (82 wins) and Jack Nicklaus (73)?
Snead won four or more events at just three different courses in his career. He won six times at Miami Springs Golf & Country Club (to claim the Miami Open six times) and four times each at Starmount Forest CC and Sedgefield CC. His eight titles at the Greater Greensboro Open were split evenly between those two courses.
Nicklaus, of course, won at Augusta National six times but, according to PGA Tour records, never won at another venue in an official PGA Tour tournament more than three times ("official" is a key word -- several events went in and out of official status during Jack's era).
But how valid can the comparison be? In Snead's and Nicklaus' eras, PGA Tour stops were more prone to movement and cancellation. Therefore, they didn't have as many opportunities to rack up victories at the same venue as Woods has had.
The financial impact Woods has made on the PGA Tour is well-documented. (He's about to become the first golfer to reach $100 million in career tournament earnings in the tour's history.) That impact extends to individual tournaments, which have been stabilized by the increased television revenues of the last decade-plus.
So we at Numbers Game ask the fans, which do you think is more impressive? If Tiger wins this week -- is it taking home eight PGA Tour titles at the same course? Or is it Snead winning eight times at two different courses? An interesting conversation to be had, for sure.
A globally elite field takes shape this week in one of the best tournaments of the year. For Bridgestone week, the Numbers Game starter calls to the tee:
Zach Johnson: Long heralded as one of the great putters in the game today, Johnson has a solid claim at being the best with the flat-stick on tour in 2012. He leads the tour in strokes gained, putting and putting average, and is second in one-putt percentage. In his victory at the John Deere Classic, Johnson was 17-for-17 on putts of 15 feet or shorter on Sunday.
Johnson had three top-three finishes in 2010 and 2011 combined. Since mid-April, he has four top-twos. Six of his past 11 rounds have been 66 or lower, and he finished tied for sixth at this event a year ago.
Adam Scott: Two weeks removed from a major heartbreak, Scott and his long putter are defending champions this week at Firestone. Scott, who is in the top 20 on tour this year in both ballstriking and total driving, is coming off a (mostly) brilliant performance at the Open Championship. Before he reached the 69th hole at Lytham, Scott had hit 48 of 68 greens in regulation for the week (70.6 percent). We all know what happened next, though.
En route to his Bridgestone title last year, Scott was bogey-free over his last 27 holes and went the entire tournament without a 3-putt. With eyes glued to him, Scott will have his resiliency tested this week.
Question: Tiger Woods has the most career wins in World Golf Championship events (16). Who is second on that list?
Answer: Geoff Ogilvy with 3 WGC victories
Luke Donald: Now second in the world ranking, Tiger Woods is putting together his first bid to regain the top spot on Earth in a few years. Will the incumbent world No. 1 Donald hang on to the top spot entering the season's final major next week at the PGA Championship?
Consider this: Donald fired four sub-70 rounds at Firestone last year to finish tied for second. He picked up a T-5 finish at the Open Championship, where he was third in fairways hit and second in greens in regulation.
And as the three-time reigning leader in strokes gained -- putting (he's fourth this year) -- if Donald putts to his potential with the ballstriking he had at Lytham, he could pick up his second WGC victory this weekend.
Justin Ray is a senior researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He has contributed to ESPN's golf coverage since joining the network out of college in 2008. He is based in Austin, Texas, with the Longhorn Network. Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.