Innisbrook Resort & GC
Palm Harbor, Fla.
Yards: 7,340 as per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bermudagrass; 7,500 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass & perennial rye grass at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 8
Course Architects: Larry Packard (1972)
Winner’s Share: $1,062,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: John Senden won for the first time on TOUR since his 2006 championship at the John Deere Classic.
Dates: March 12-15
Notes: Full field event; top 70 and ties play the weekend; stroke play.
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, Alex Cejka (PRO) and Dustin Johnson are the first 10 winners of calendar 2015. Hahn (No. 297), Harrington (No. 297) and Cejka (No. 285) are the only players outside the top 70 in the OWGR to win this year.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season Johnson joined Snedeker, Koepka, Haas, Walker, Reed and Hahn as the USA winners in 2015. The stars and stripes already picked up wins in 2014 from Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin. The USA won 12 of the first 17 events. Cejka joined Harrington, Jason Day and the rest of foreign legion with his playoff win in Puerto Rico last week. He joins Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) from the 2014 as the international winners.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Through 15 events in 2015, Hahn, Koepka, Martin, Streb, Taylor and Cejka have broken their maidens.
After grinding out pars and birdies in the wind, sand and water on the east coast of Florida the last two weeks, the TOUR moves to the Sun Coast north of Tampa this week. Innisbrook will provide the same test: grinding out pars and birdies in the wind, sand and water but on a totally different layout. Doglegged fairways, elevation changes and oak trees replace flat lies, windswept peninsulas and palm trees.
Whereas length off the tee was THE calling card last week, the Copperhead course will test most of the clubs in the bag this week. The pros will welcome back shot-making and their yardage books as this will be the 15th edition at Innisbrook. Tough, tight fairways give way to massive Bermudagrass greens so there will be more than one way to skin the cat this week. Robert Garrigus remarked last year that he’s going to bring his chainsaw this year as he saw plenty of the oaks and pines lining the short stuff. Where accuracy off the tee NEVER hurts finding the proper level on the putting surfaces will also mitigate multiple putts on the short stuff. Greens of this size should be accessed but don’t be surprised to find those who can lag putt in the mix on Sunday.
The Copperhead Course has had only two “what the heck” years since moving to winter (from September) in 2007:
2014: 6th-hardest +1.433
2013: 7th; +1.222
2012: 30th of 49 played; -.268
2011: 27th of 51 played; -.183
2010: 13th; +.722
2009: 9th; +1.157
2008: 8th; +1.970
2007: 15th; +1.005
The winning scores I’m looking at go back to the first winter in 2007 as the weather in September is comparing apples and oranges.
2014: John Senden -7
2013: Kevin Streelman -10
2012: Luke Donald -13
2011: Gary Woodland -15
2010: Jim Furyk -13
2009: Retief Goosen -8
2008: Sean O'Hair -4
2007: Mark Calcavecchia -10
Last year, single digits scores won Honda, WGC-CC and Valspar. This year, Valspar has the chance to make it four tournaments in a row as six-under was the winning score at Riviera and Honda before Johnson won on nine-under last week at Doral. #RealGrind.
Gamers, there are surprises each week at each of these stops but those are usually exceptions, not rules. Patience, persistence and pars will be the key again this week. The par-71 has five par threes in play. The par fives are no picnics either and neither are the three finishing holes, “The Snakepit”, holes Nos. 16-18, usually ranks in the top five of three-hole stretches on TOUR that are the most difficult. Coming home with three pars will NOT hurt; John Senden made two birdies last year on these closing three holes to cement his title.
The 16th was the hardest hole in 2014; the first was the easiest. Better get off to a good start so the finish is bearable! Or snakeable. Bear Traps, Blue Monsters and Snake Pits, OH MY!
All the winter champions are in the field this week minus Mark Calcavecchia who is injured.
Streelman and Woodland won their first TOUR events here. That’s two of the last four so first-timers can’t be completely dismissed.
Woodland is the only player to win in his maiden voyage at Copperhead.
Tournament and Course Records
Going back to 2007, Gary Woodland’s 15-under-269 in 2011 has been the new standard.
Harrington opened with 61 in 2012 and finished T20.
Bizarre Stat of the Week
There were no bogey-free rounds on Sunday last year and only nine for the week. Kevin Na had two of them…
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses).
Jim Furyk (A): Since returning to Innisbrook in 2009 with T52, the hyper-accurate driver of the golf ball has rattled off WIN-T13-T2-T2-T7-T20 over the last six years. Even Luke Donald blushes at this run of form! During that stretch of 24 rounds only two have been above par. He began his season with T7 at Pebble and followed that with T14 at Riviera and T12 at Doral last week where he closed with 69. The harder the course, MOAR FURYK please!
Henrik Stenson (A): If Woodland won here on his maiden voyage I have no problem connecting the dots for the world’s No.3 player this week. His strength is driving the golf ball and GIR. It’s the putter that always makes or breaks with him but with a birdie-fest not usually on the cards here, he should be a bother as the week rolls on. Every time he tees it up he seems to find a way into the conversation and his T4 last week continues a consistent streak of form (T13-T13-T4) to open 2015.
Adam Scott (A): I questioned last week whether hopping on the new day on a tough course with a short putter would be a good idea. I was reminded of the sheer class from the Aussie marksman and I’m not going to be fooled again. I wasn’t thrilled to see him T54 in fairways last week but he ended up T3 in GIR. That new putter was 12th in SGP and 10th in putts per GIR. No chance he’s that crooked two weeks in a row but can the putter keep up!?!?
Jordan Spieth (B): Can’t I just copy and paste week-to-week? With three top 10s in his last five and T17 last week, the young Texan keeps proving the ammo that gamers love to see. He’s played here the last two years and posted T7 in his maiden and T20 last year. I love that his putter and short game can save his sometime crooked ball-striking and he never mails it in.
Kevin Na (C): Let’s welcome this week’s contestant on “when course form meets current form”! After a disastrous five-event run on the West Coast where he normally thrives, Na rolled into Doral and put his last three rounds of the week all under par (71-71-71) to finish T9. Did I mention he made four doubles on the week? Did I mention he made only one bogey in his last 31 holes? He finished second at Valspar last year and led the field in bogeys with three and pars with 57. He was also first in fairways, T14 in GIR and 15th in SGP. He had three bad holes on Sunday (bogey-bogey-double) on the front before charging home with 33 and falling one shot short of a playoff. This was his second top 10 in his last five starts at Innisbrook.
Luke Donald (A): He’s THE horse for the course this week whose last name isn’t Furyk. The Englishman has again shown his penchant for cashing on courses where he’s had past successes again in 2015. Wait, it’s only been Honda? Yeah, that’s it but he came good with T7. This week, his course form is even better with T6-WIN-T4-T4 in four of the last five years. Donald and Furyk prove that hitting fairways is a valuable trait to have in these parts and Donald’s short game enhances his value here as well. Donald has been killing salary cappers (one top 25 in seven starts) but weekly gamers can pick and choose their spots. DING DING.
Matt Kuchar (B): I find it bizarre that he’s never busted better than a T10 here as ON PAPER, this track sets up perfectly for his game. He loves to work the ball and putting and chipping into huge greens should be right up his alley! After T30 and T23 in his last two on TOUR, I’m not burning a Yahoo! start on him until he starts to sizzle again. I’ll have about 13-16 more chances and I’m cool with that.
Jason Dufner (A): Similar to Kuchar, Dufner has racked up six weekends in seven tries at Innisbrook but has never bettered T10. He’s also never finished worse than T28 so he’ll be a solid addition to most lineups this week. Don’t tell anyone but he was seven-over through his first 13 holes before playing the next 59 even. He’s getting close and a comfortable landing place like the Copperhead Course should see him start to move in the proper direction for season-long owners and weekly investors.
Justin Rose (B): He’s five-for-five since the move to March with four finishes inside the top 14. His T8 last year was disappointing because he closed with a final round 74 that knocked him out of a chance at a podium finish. That’s been his M.O. here over that stretch as he’s posted a 73 or worse in all five of those starts so let all 72 holes play out before screaming at me! Remember, class is permanent; form is temporary.
Brendon Todd (C): He’s banged out T10-T14-T23 in his last three on TOUR and looks to be quite comfortable at No. 50 in the new OWGR. After T23 at Doral last week another big field shouldn’t bother him this week. His tee ball and solid ball-striking will have even more value this week through the doglegs and trees of Innisbrook. He putted the dimples off the ball last year (6th SGP) but that club hasn’t heated up yet in 2015. More tortoise than hare this week and there’s nothing wrong with a few of those in the lineup. #Steady
Joost Luiten (C): CLASSIC bounce-back on the cards this week after “current form-course form” crash-and-burn last week at Doral. He finished T46 after T11 at Honda but yet was T11 in fairways and T5 in GIR. He made nothing and opened with 79 but played the final three rounds in one-under so it’s not like he forgot how to play! Nice recovery that won’t catch most gamers’ eyes!
Patrick Reed (C): In six starts in 2015 he’s hit the top 40 in all of them including his W at the HTOC. Only three of his last 24 rounds have been over par so he’s just chugging along. We’ll see if he uses his time inside the ropes as a sanctuary as the questions continue to stir about his troubled past at Augusta State continue to make waves. His splits don’t jive this week but he’s 21st in strokes gained tee to green and is an excellent putter.
Daniel Berger (B): He has one round over 72 in 2015. In six tournaments he’s finished T24 or better in five of them. He’s also racked up three top 10s in that span including three of his last four starts. He’s 15th in scoring and 15th in the all-around ranking. He’s in the top 10 in both total driving and ball-striking and is 27th in strokes gained total. That’s not a fluke.
Nick Watney: He came home in 32 Monday at Honda to finish T41 for his worst finish of 2015. He’s eight-for-eight (DNP last year) at Innisbrook and has three top 13s in the last five tries.
Gary Woodland: He missed out on the Chalk as his uneven 2015 doesn’t qualify him as a no-brainer. He should be encouraged with bookend 70-70 last week to post T23 at Doral. Woodland could have easily fit in the “horses for courses” section as well as he’s put only TWO rounds from 14 in the last four years over par.
George McNeill: He’s a perfect five-for-five on TOUR in 2015 and the Sun Coast native will be right at home this week at Innisbrook. His best finish of the season was T11 at Honda two weeks ago as he closed 68-68 on that beast. He’ll enjoy Copperhead again and will look to add to his 2008 T2 and last year’s solo seventh.
Louis Oosthuizen: This selection comes with a disclaimer: Any sign of injury/fatigue/tweak found Tuesday or Wednesday give me an immediate mulligan. THAT’S where Oosti is with gamers right now. Tell me he’s going to be healthy for four rounds, he’s in the chalk. Tell me he’s unsure of how it feels and he’s out to sea. Last week’s result was brutal for the gaming community because of exactly what he did: he played great and was solo sixth. Somebody will be cursing him come the weekend if he WD again.
Lee Westwood: For a player who travels the world as much as he does it’s impressive that he continues to ping (no pun intended) top 25s for fun. He’s loaded up eight in his last nine worldwide as was T25 at Honda and T12 last week in his last two.
Russell Knox: His first four events of 2015 were T13-MC-T15-MC before taking three weeks off and posting T3 at Honda, a course he absolutely loves (P2 in 2014). I’m not ignoring a guy who plays the weekends T15 or better.
William McGirt: He posted T30 or better in his last four on TOUR. Not bad for the No. 146th player in the OWGR. It’s not surprising when it is realized that he’s in the top 50 in all three strokes gained categories. His only bad numbers are distance related and eagles. I can live with that on a track where accuracy and putting might be more important.
Brendon de Jonge: 2015 has begun with him playing five weekends from seven. In four of those last five weeks have been T27 or better (one MC) with T10 at PRO last week. He’s the quintessential weekly roster-filler.
Rory Sabbatini: With four top 25s from six starts in 2015, the warm-tempered veteran has been rewarded shrewd weekly gamers. He would love to have had Friday at the Honda back as he fired 75, his only round over 69 for the week. He finished T11. Be careful, he made everything that week but his steady overall play pushes me towards instead of away.
Boo Weekley: Bookend top 10s in his last four starts with T30-MC in the middle suggests that Weekley is happy and healthy. After MC at Honda with 73-72 and opening PRO with 74, he closed eight-under over the final wind-swept three rounds to finish T6. Don’t forget he closed with 63 here two years ago to almost steal it from Streelman…
Daniel Summerhays: Like McGirt, he’s steady with most clubs in the bag and is a stat geek’s dream. His last three have been T45-T30-T17 so it’s moving in the proper direction.
Brian Harman: The course record holder at PGA National’s Champion Course gave it a run two Mondays ago but finished with 64. His T11 was his best of the season and might light the fire after finishing the West Coast T66-T32-MC.
Martin Laird: Ok, he’s down here because I’m hoping my boys who I play with weekly have given up reading. Since you haven’t you are deserving of a cookie. Laird wrapped up his West Coast swingT15-T5-T7 and has three top sevens in six weekends this season. He hasn’t played in a month and that’s my ONLY concern from this ball-striker this week.
Horses for Courses
Sangmoon Bae: He’s posted five of 12 rounds here in the 60s in three tries the last three years. He backdoored T14 last year with 67 on Sunday but was T2 by a shot to Luke Donald here in 2012 with all four rounds in the 60s. Bae has covered HFC already this year with another top 10 at Riviera. He’s definitely LIVE this week after two tough Florida starts in a row.
Jonathan Byrd: He’s 11-11 and six-for-six since the March move. Of those six weekends, five of them have been T36 or better including T20-T8-T12. He should be automatic in DFS games especially after T16 last week at PRO. He’s No. 327 in the world and is an excellent choice in OWGR formats.
John Senden: The defending champ has gotten off to a very quiet start in 2015 but after last season, he gets a pass. In five events this season he’s put exactly two rounds in the 60s and his best finishes are in non-full-field events. This is the track to take a shot at him as his victory last year supports a pair of T2s from 2007 and 2008.
Retief Goosen: He’s four-from-five after his 2009 victory and fired a third round 64 here last year. He also came home with 79 last year to finish T44, his worst start when he’s made the cut since the switch.
Cameron Tringale: After MC in his maiden voyage, Tringale has put 10 of his last 12 round here at par or better and racked up finishes of T46-third-T25. He has shot 66 twice during this span so it’s obvious that the Californian digs the west coast; the west coast of Florida.
Kevin Streelman: T10-WIN-T38 in his last three with nine of those 12 rounds par or better. Since his solo second in Las Vegas back in October his best full-field finish is T26.
Charles Howell III: He’s banged three top 14s in six tries since 2007. Last year was his first year since 2011 and he was T14 after closing with 68 and putting three of four rounds par or better.
Stewart Cink: All-or-nothing here as T2-T11-T14 cancel out MC-T70-MC over the last seven years. He’s posted nothing better than T31 this season in eight events.
Robert Garrigus: “Chainsaw Bob” has seen the finish line here twice in the last three years but ran out of holes in 2012 and found too many trees in closing with 75 last year. His T2 in 2012 and T4 last year will have to overcome his current form which has seen him make four cuts from eight events this season, none of which, like Cink, have gone for better than T31.
Off the Radar
Shawn Stefani: He led here after 36 holes in 2013 in his only visit. He ended T7.
Will MacKenzie: His injury concerns were squashed with his T6 last week at PRO. His interest will be heightened with his 69-70-68 finish and his T4 here last year.
Morgan Hoffmann: T22-WD-T17 in his last three. He hits it a mile, like Garrigus, but can really putt it, unlike Garrigus.
Adam Hadwin: He’s claimed on Twitter that he’s been too close for his liking without kicking down the door. Throwing away too many shots might be the case but he’s not wrong, he’s close. T32-T22-T31-T27 in his last four deserves a look especially since they were all on tough courses similar to Innisbrook.
Chad Collins: He’s made seven of his last eight and everything in 2015 has been T41 or better.
Sean O’Hair: After MC at Sony to open 2015 he’s rattled off four in a row. Last time out at Honda he was T25. Don’t forget he won here in 2008 when it was impossible (-4 winning score).
Martin Flores: He’s six-from-seven in 2015 and backed his T17 at Honda with T16 last week at PRO. Too bad he’s 0-3 in Tampa.
Chesson Hadley: The Thin Man has ONLY shown course form this season as he backed up his top 10s from 2014 at Pebble and he was T16 in his defense at PRO last week. He was T14 here last year after opening with 75.
Out to Sea
Ryan Moore: His last four at Innisbrook have been T80-T44-MC-MC-DNS. His form has been very solid, minus the weekends, his last two times out but that’s not enough to overcome.
Matt Every: His best full-field finish this season is T49.
Emiliano Grillo: He missed a three-foot-par putt to win on the PGA TOUR. I’m interested to see how he handles it.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Tony Finau, T7s
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Nick Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Humana: Sung Joon Park (T2) is new to the TOUR but is hardly a rookie; Oh, look: Justin Thomas in the top 10 again (T7).
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Northern Trust: Barber checked in at T12 and all that took was firing a tournament-low 65 on Sunday. No shame in Carlos Ortiz’s final round 75 from the final group as he played two very tough SoCal courses, Torrey South and Riviera T11 and T20. Noted.
Honda: Berger lost in a playoff. He’s played 10 TOUR events.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at 12 ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Valspar Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.