Australian Craig Parry returns to the Doral Resort and Spa Blue Monster Course this week to defend his Ford Championship title. Parry won his second PGA Tour event with one of the most startling shots of the year ñ a 6-iron he holed from 176 yards at the par-4 18th hole to win a playoff against Scott Verplank.
What made Parry's feat all the more amazing is that the 2004 PGA Tour season ended with the Blue Monster's 18th playing the most difficult of any hole on any course used for a Tour event or a major championship. No. 18 at Doral played to a stroke average of 4.48, or nearly a half-stroke over-par.
The next most difficult hole was the par-4 12th at the Torrey Pines South Course.
There were only six eagles on par-4 holes that made the Tour's top-50 list of the most difficult holes, and Parry's 2 was the first of the season among those half-dozen shots.
Aussies rule: It wasn't until 1990 that an Australian player won a Florida Swing event. But that victory by Greg Norman at the Doral Open ignited a wave of Australians winning in Florida that hasn't yet ebbed.
Last year's victories for Parry in the Ford Championship and Adam Scott in The Players Cham¤pionship were the 10th and 11th by Australians in Florida. Norman won Doral three times and The Players once; Steve Elkington won Doral and The Players twice each; and Scott, Parry and Stuart Appleby have each won once in Florida.
Australian winners in Florida invariably cite as a reason the usual conditions of play in March: warm and windy.
"It's pretty much what we grow up playing in Australia," Parry said after winning at Do¤ral. "We're very comfortable in Florida.
King of the Modern Swing: Most ardent golf fans know that Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller dominated at the old Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic in Fort Lauderdale and that Doug Sanders and Billy Casper owned the early years at the Doral Open in Miami.
But who has won the most tour¤naments during the modern era of the Florida Swing?
Since The Players Champi¤onship permanently was moved to the last week of March in 1983 to establish the current rotation of Florida events, Tiger Woods has won the most in his adopted home state with five.
Four of those victories came at the Bay Hill Invitational from 1999-2003, and his other Florida victory was at the 2001 Players Championship.
Norman, Elkington and Fred Couples have won four Florida Swing events each to tie for second. Norman won at Doral three times and the 1994 Players; Elkington won at Doral twice and the 1991 and 1997 Players; and Couples won the 1984 and 1996 Players, and Bay Hill and the Honda Classic once each.