Innisbrook , A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort
Palm Harbor, Florida
Yards: 7,340 per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bermudagass; 8,220 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass and ryegrass at 2.5”
Course Architect: Larry Packard (1972)
Winner’s Share: $1,026,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Kevin Streelman defeated Boo Weekley by two shots for his first TOUR victory
Dates: March 13-16
Format: Stroke play
Notes: As of Monday afternoon, 15 of the top 50 players in the OWGR rankings are entered this week.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 16 of 17 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley and Chesson Hadley have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. Jason Day is representing the rest of the world as the Australian won the WGC-Match Play.
Chesson Hadley (PRO) joins Jimmy Walker and Kevin Stadler as the only first-time winners this season. There were 12 first-timers in 40 events last year.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33) at WMPO and Bubba Watson, 35, joined them at Riviera. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime!
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26), Russell Henley (24) and Chesson Hadley, 26, are the twenty-somethings on the board. With Reed and Hadley both winning this week, the Young Guns now have 10 wins to the Prime Timers seven.
The Old Guys are playing like old guys as they have zero wins this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
Horse-for-course fans remember any data prior to 2007 is sketchy because the tournament was contended in September. In 2007, it moved to its current March date. March golf is different than September golf these days.
Past Champions in the Field:
2013 Kevin Streelman
2012 Luke Donald
2011 Gary Woodland
2010 Jim Furyk
2009 Retief Goosen
2008 Sean O'Hair
2007 Mark Calcavecchia
2006 K.J. Choi
2005 Carl Pettersson
2004 Vijay Singh
2003 Retief Goosen
2002 K.J. Choi
The 2001 tournament, scheduled to be held in September, was cancelled due to the events of 9/11.
Kevin Streelman joined Gary Woodland and Carl Pettersson as players to break their TOUR maiden on this course.
Besides inaugural champ John Huston, only Retief Goosen (2003) and Woodland won their first times they entered this event.
There has never been a repeat champion.
After watching the rest of the world clean up at Innisbrook, the USA contingent has now won five of the last seven events since moving to March on the schedule.
Inside the Ropes
Here’s where the Valspar Championship has ranked, relative to par, since moving to March in 2007:
2013: +1.22; 7th hardest
2012: -.268; 30th hardest
2011: -.183; 27th hardest
2010: +.722; 13th hardest
2009: +1.157; 9th hardest
2008: +1.970; 8th hardest
2007: +1.005; 15th hardest
From windswept ocean-side courses flush with water hazards and bunkers to hills, trees and doglegs, the Copperhead Course will be very “un-Florida”-like in its position on the Florida Swing. Sure, it still has Bermudagrass greens the players have to navigate but the test of golf will come from working the tee ball in both directions and finding the putting stroke on these massive greens.
Over the years, the list of champions would suggest ball-strikers as the obvious choices but Luke Donald proved in 2012 that a great short game doesn’t hurt either. Jim Furyk, the winner in 2010, isn’t exactly long off the tee either but these two are the exceptions, not the rules.
The Copperhead Course calls its final three holes “The Snake Pit” and the players will have to find a way to survive the three toughest holes on the golf course. Missing the fairways or green during this 4-3-4 finish will result in difficult second shots and a chance to put it in reverse coming to the finish line. This won’t bother experienced pros who have played The Bear Trap and the Blue Monster the last two weeks but it could affect a youngster looking for win No. 1. Bogeys will be made. Patience will be needed. Big numbers will need to be avoided.
The pros always rate this course very highly because it takes golf shots to win this tournament rather than abusing it with sheer power. Working the golf ball off the tee in both directions is rewarded as is hitting fairways and getting up and down. Guys who spray it off the tee this week and aren’t used to racking up GIR will have to bring their escape acts just to keep up. Believe it or not, the course record is 61, set by Padraig Harrington in the first round in 2012. He didn’t have another round below par that year as he finished T20. Boo Weekley snuck into second last year with his final round 63. Great shots find great rewards!