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The numbers game

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- So not everybody is coming to the Greenbrier Classic to see K.J. Choi get up and down from a greenside bunker. Some want to see Kenny Chesney and/or Aerosmith, with golf an optional diversion.

On the course, many fans are just as happy with a beverage in one hand, a fried green tomato sandwich in the other and the anticipation of a 350-yard cannon shot off a pink driver. Bubba long, baby, Bubba long.

Want to see the longest driver and other facets of the game? We're here to help.

The PGA Tour keeps so many statistics they make the Bill James Baseball Abstract look like a pamphlet. You don't need to know them all, but with the Classic field set, we'll rank some of the best players in a few choice categories.

Such as:

  • Driving length: Watson indeed is the longest bomber in the field, so watch that pink driver go. On average, he rips it 302.9 yards a swing and tops the 320-yard mark 21 percent of the time.
  • Gary Woodland, who has overshot the 616-yard 17th hole at Old White TPC in two strokes, is next at 302.5. Jason Kokrak, Graham DeLaet and Ryan Palmer also average 300-plus yards.

  • Driving accuracy: While you watch Bubba locate his errant tee shots, consider who can park those on the fairway the most. The Tour leader is Ken Duke, that 44-year-old who scored his first victory a week ago in Memphis. He hits the fairway 71.28 percent.
  • Chez Reavie has a 70.31 percent mark, with Jeff Maggert right behind at 69.84 percent.

  • Best driving combination: Yes, the Tour lists such a category and DeLaet is the top Classic entrant. D.J. Trahan, who once blasted a 414-yard drive on Old White's No. 6, is high on the list, along with Boo Weekley and Billy Horschel.
  • Ball striking: Hey, we don't make this stuff up. Total the rank of total driving and greens in regulation and you get this little stat. It supports the TV commentator's line of, "His ball striking is excellent this week."
  • Anyway, DeLaet is the best on the tour, with Classic entrants Weekley, Trahan and Watson close behind.

  • Most eagles, birdies: Old White has two par-5s, Nos. 12 and 17, and they run side by side in opposite directions. With that, you can watch the pros go for the green in two from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The Tour averages the number of holes per eagle and Tiger Woods leads the Tour at 82.3. He's not coming here, but rookie phenom Jordan Spieth (99.0) is, along with Kokrak (100.0) and James Hahn (104.4).

    Birdies per round is tallied, and the always-aggressive Phil Mickelson (4.44) leads that category, followed by Horschel (4.42) and Watson (4.23). Also good to follow are Palmer (4.07) and Jimmy Walker (4.02).

  • Best scrambler: A white-knuckle par save is as entertaining as anything, and four-time Classic entrant Charles Howell III saves par 66.19 percent of the time. Other top escape artists are Bob Estes (65.60), Stuart Appleby (64.99) and Matt Jones (64.85).
  • Best sand player: Australians are known for escaping the beach in style, and Appleby (71.43) percent and Steven Bowditch (69.12) can save par from greenside bunkers as well as anyone. Choi (68.18) is high on the Tour list, as well.
  • Best putter: There are enough stats on putting to make your head throb.
  • Jin Park, Peter Hanson and Woodland haven't missed from 3 feet. Mickelson and Horschel are the best at putts for birdies. Brian Gay has the fewest putts per round (27.29).

    But the most bizarre - and perhaps accurate - putting stat is the strokes gained-putting category. In simplest terms, putts are compared from the different distances against the rest of the field and translated into an average of strokes gained or lost per round.

    Otherwise, don't ask. Just take the nerds' word that Stephen Ames gains 1.013 shots per round, or more than four per tournament. If he scores his fifth career Tour win, assume he'll do it on the green.

    Or you can just watch the guy putt. Or Watson hit it 300-plus. Or Spieth eagle the 12th.

    And you can do it like it's meant to be, with a fried green tomato sandwich and a peach tea.

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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