August 27, 2018 By: Jim McCabe — Compared to the other three courses being used in the FedExCup Playoffs this year – Ridgewood Country Club, Aronimink Golf Club and East Lake Golf Club – TPC Boston, which will host this week’s Dell Technologies Championship, is a veritable fresh-out-of-the-package entry.
Consider that when TPC Boston first opened in the summer of 2002, Ridgewood and Aronimink had already celebrated centennials and East Lake was prepping for its. But as a new kid on the block, TPC Boston has fit in nicely, having hosted a PGA TOUR tournament annually since 2003 and joining East Lake GC as the only club to be involved in the FedExCup Playoffs every summer since they were introduced in 2007.
There is a common thread, despite the age differences, because as with Ridgewood (host of last week’s NORTHERN TRUST) and Aronimink (next week’s BMW Championship), TPC Boston owes its cool, New England rustic look to the talents of Gil Hanse and his colleague Jim Wagner. They came along after the 2006 tournament to give TPC Boston a new persona, one that has been widely praised by competitors.
Here are five things to know about TPC Boston before the Dell Technologies Championship gets underway Friday:
1. About that name: Don’t think you’re going to walk away from TPC Boston and be able to roam through Faneuil Hall or meander into the famous North End. You’re not actually in Boston when you’re at TPC Boston; instead, you’re in the town of Norton, which is approximately 38.2 miles south of Fenway Park (or Pahk, as the locals call it). Heck, you’re closer to Providence (20 miles south).
At first, it was going to be called TPC Boston at Great Woods, a nod to the summer music venue – Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts – that is less than a mile up the street, just over the town line into Mansfield. But it was quickly amended to TPC Boston, for the better. (And the amphitheater is now the Xfinity Center.)
For such a small town of approximately 20,000 residents (Norton didn’t have a traffic light until 1997), it’s a happening place thanks to the Dell Technologies Championship and all those concerts next door. If there’s a lasting memory of the debut of the PGA TOUR tournament here in 2003, it might be the image of Jesper Parnevik running into the locker room to get out of his neon golf attire and into something way more colorful – his costume to attend the KISS concert next door.
2. Red is the color: And not because we’re in Red Sox country, either. No, we’ve had 15 consecutive years of a PGA TOUR stop at TPC Boston and by now, the lads know this: You’ve got to step on the gas and keep it there from start to finish.
The average winning score has been 266.5 – or 17.5 strokes under par. To get there, you best muster at least one really low round at the par-71 TPC Boston layout as only one of the previous 15 winners has failed to record a 65 or lower. That was Rickie Fowler in 2015, and he could afford it that year as he went 67-67-67-68. He is one of eight winners there to shoot all four days in the 60s, with Vijay Singh having done it twice.
The flip side of going low is not going high, so keep this in mind: Only three times at TPC Boston has a winner recorded an over-par round – 72s by Tiger Woods (2006) and Steve Stricker (2009) and 73 by Chris Kirk (2014).
3. The cream rises: The thing about consistently low numbers is that consistently great players seem to generate them. So, while it plays host to low scores, TPC Boston is also where marquee names visit the winner’s circle.
What’s not to like about a place where in 15 years a name from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking has won 10 times and on the inaugural tournament at TPC Boston in 2003, the 18th-ranked player won; kid by the name of Adam Scott.
TPC Boston was where Singh won in 2004 to move up from No. 2, knocking Woods from the top spot. Impressive stuff, for it came at a time when Woods was Woods. In 2006, Woods solidified his No. 1 rank when he won at TPC Boston; ditto McIlroy in 2012, and on five other occasions, the winner here has been ranked second, third, fourth or fifth.
No surprise, then, that since 2007, the winner at TPC Boston has proceeded to win the FedExCup four times – Singh in 2008, Henrik Stenson in 2013, McIlroy in 2016 and Justin Thomas last year.
4. Fireworks: In 2009, the threesome of John Senden, Angel Cabrera and Scott Verplank played the par-5 second in nine strokes. Total. They went albatross, eagle, birdie, respectively, and fans soaked in the roars of a rare 2-3-4 performance.
But it’s not like they haven’t had plenty of other dramatic stuff to cheer, because at TPC Boston, eagles are very much a part of the show. Two of the par 5s – the second and 18th – are easily reachable in two and have yielded lots of 3s. On average, the 18th is eagled 15.1 times per tournament, the second 9.2.
The seventh is a tougher par-5, with just 29 eagles in 15 years.
But you don’t need a seat at the par-5s to watch eagles land at TPC Boston; a quality view is at the fourth, where Hanse turned a mundane par-4 into an intriguing short hole that can be driven. Since the FedExCup Playoffs began in 2007, the hole has been eagled 75 times, or 6.8 times per tournament.
Thomas made eagle there as part of his final-round 66 to win last year’s Dell Technologies Championship.
5. Just down the road: One of the neat things about walking into TPC Boston during the FedExCup Playoffs, at least for a good cross-section of the players, is the chance to be reminded how far they’ve come in a short time.
Twenty miles in seven years?
You could crunch it that way, perhaps, since from TPC Boston it’s not much more than a 25- or 30-minute ride to Wannamoisett CC in Rumford, Rhode Island. Many in the golf community embrace Wannamoisett as a Donald Ross classic and its membership for the way it embraces the annual Northeast Amateur. Seven years ago, 54 young golfers made the cut at the Northeast Amateur and 13 of them now are PGA TOUR players. Further, nine of them – including the 2011 Northeast Amateur winner Peter Uihlein – will be teeing it up in the Dell Technologies Championship.
Other notables: Patrick Rodgers finished fourth that year, Emiliano Grillo was joint fifth, while Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were well down the list.
Likely the pressures of the Playoffs will consume them this week and keep them focused on what might be. But on those rides on I-95 toward their hotel, they just might spy a sign for Rumford and be reminded of what once was.