Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club
Palm Harbor, Fla.
Yards: 7,340 per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bermudagrass (8,220 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass with perennial ryegrass at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 8
Course Architect: Larry Packard (1972)
Winner’s Share: $990,000
FexExCup Points: 550 to the winner
Defending Champion: Luke Donald’s birdie on the first playoff hole saw him take the first-ever playoff in the 12-year history of this event. He defeated Robert Garrigus, Jim Furyk and Sang-Moon Bae in a four-man playoff.
Dates: March 14-17
Notes: Full-field event
This will be the 13th edition of this event which began in 2000. Due to the events of September 11, 2001, the tournament was postponed that season and not rescheduled.
Gary Woodland (2011) and Carl Pettersson (2006) made this event their first ever win on TOUR.
John Huston (2000) and Retief Goosen are the only players to win in their first appearance at the Copperhead Course.
Retief Goosen (2003; 2009) and K.J. Choi (2002; 2006) are the only multiple winners. No player has successfully defended their title in Tampa.
The former winners in the field this week:
This tournament was moved to March after the 2006 edition after occupying a spot in the fall from its inception in 2000.
There have been seven international winners and five American winners. In 2013, the Stars and Stripes have won all 11 events, including the season opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Cut through oak trees and set in rolling hills, the Copperhead Course, located just outside Tampa, feels more like the Midwest than it does Florida. Instead of having wind-swept fairways and greens, players will have to navigate tree-lined doglegs while adjusting to changes in elevation that they would not have seen at The Honda Classic or Doral. What doesn’t change is the Bermudagrass that they players will find in the rough and on the greens. The keys to success this week will be navigating the large greens so I’m looking for guys who are accurate ball-strikers and guys who are wielding warmer than usual flatsticks.
Last year the Copperhead Course ranked No. 30 out of the 49 courses used on TOUR so it’s no longer the track that chewed up and spit up golfers as recently as 2008 when Sean O’Hair won at four-under-par and only 13 players broke par. Last year, Luke Donald and the playoff gang posted 13-under and 65 players broke par. Time to keep the ball in the fairway and make pars!
The “Snake Pit” comprises of holes Nos. 16, 17 and 18 and will test the player’s nerves down the stretch. After seeing the “Bear Trap” at The Honda and No. 18 at Doral last week, this set of holes will be respected but not feared by the top pros. Those who are trailing into these holes will be forced to take some risks and those who are leading will have to hold their nerve, especially if the wind picks up later in the day.
Top 10, Plus One
Webb Simpson: Caddy Paul Tesori is back on the bag for Simpson and had an interesting Tweet on Sunday after his round. Via Twitter, Tesori mentioned that they were 58th in putting (out of 65 players) but still found a way to finish T20. Keep smashing fairways and greens and the putts will eventually fall. Simpson was T10 last year after finishing second in 2011 and T13 in 2010.
Adam Scott: I liked the fact that even that he was 12 shots behind Woods entering Sunday that he dug out the tournament-low round with 64. That tells me he knows he’s heading in the right direction as he ramps up his game for Augusta. We’ve seen him win in Houston and in San Antonio and if he plays as well as he did Sunday, he could add Tampa Bay to annual spring resume. His course history here is not spectacular but after T10 at Riviera and T3 last week at Doral, he should be firing this week.
Luke Donald: The 2012 champion will be happy to see the back of No. 18 at Doral as he made double bogey there in ALL four rounds. He was one-over for the tournament but EIGHT-OVER on that hole alone so it’s not like he was slapping it all over the resort. He was par or better in three out of four rounds (76 Friday). In his last two events at Innisbrook, Donald has simply won last year and was T6 in 2010. He’s on this list if he’s in the field.
Sergio Garcia: Everyone was waiting for Garica to fall apart on the weekend last week at Doral after finishing no better than T31 in his last three events there. He kept his cool and his ball out of the water and played the weekend in eight-under to share third place. He only made four bogeys and a one double last week so he’s dialed in and ready to go. In his last three starts at Tampa he’s gotten off to a blazing start but has cooled off on the weekends so Yahoo! gamers be aware.
Jason Dufner: Another superb player from tee to green, Dufner looks like he’s finally kicking it into gear after his worldwide travels in late 2012 and early 2013. He made only five bogeys last week finishing T12, his best finish on U.S. soil this season. His T10 finish last year was his first top 10 in five starts.
Jim Furyk: After a quiet start last year Furyk found himself in a in a four-man playoff to kick start his season. I’m a Déjà vu kinda-guy so it’s interesting how his quiet start to this year mirrors last year. His last three starts at Innisbrook are P2, T13 and WIN. Ok, yes, please.
Matt Kuchar: Ouch. That’s the only word I could use to describe how Kuchar’s 72-72-72-71 week at a course that he had ran over the last three years. He was also quite warm after coming off his WGC-Match Play victory. In five career starts in Tampa, Kuchar has made the cut four out of five times and has two top 10s to show. He makes every cut (10 straight; 48 of 52) so I wouldn’t see why this week would be any different.
Jason Day: After his quiet weekend at Doral, Day heads back to Tampa where he’s improved his finish the last three years, including only two of his last eight rounds over par. All he has to show for it is T20, T51 and T61. His short game is excellent and if his tee ball cooperates, he should be in the mix come Sunday.
Michael Thompson: He’s earned his way into this spot after winning against a very solid field at The Honda Classic and showing no fear stepping into his first WGC event by finishing T8. Solid from tee to green, he’ll enjoy big, fast greens this week as the putter is the favorite club in his bag.
Nick Watney: Another “horse-for-course” that didn’t fire last week, Watney lines it up again this week on a track where he is seven-for-seven with three finishes in the top 13, including solo fourth in 2010. His 77-74 weekend at Doral doesn’t get the parade lined up, but he’s an excellent ball striker and that helps this week.
Scott Piercy: He’s finished in the top 25 in five of seven starts in 2013. After a putting lesson from Stan Utley, Piercy has moved into the top 40 in strokes gained-putting. He fired 61 earlier this season at WMPO and fired 62 in the final round here last year. He had another top 25 in a WGC event last week at Doral.