The WGC-Cadillac Championship from last week is going to be a tough act to follow, but it’s time to move on, and get you ready for the new week. As the Florida Swing continues, the focus moves three hours up the Florida Turnpike to the Tampa St Pete area to The Tampa Bay Championship Presented by Everbank. Action gets underway at the Innisbrook Resort(Copperhead) on Thursday morning, with The Golf Channel carrying the broadcast on Thursday and Friday from 3 to 6 PM EDT, and weekend coverage will be 1 to 3 PM, with NBC taking over from 3 to 6 PM.
The 7340 yard par 71 Copperhead Golf Course was designed by Larry Packard in 1972, and unlike the other courses on the Florida Swing, has rolling tree lined fairways where placement of tee shots are a premium for players wanting to reach the greens in regulation, and wanting makeable putts. The final three holes are called the “Snake Pit” which is two very strong par fours, with a 215 yard par three in the middle.
Copperhead’s “Snake Pit” ranked No. 4 among last year’s toughest closing three-hole stretches, averaging .519 strokes above par. That trailed only Muirfield Village (the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance), Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo Championship) and Augusta National (Masters).
Luke Donald is the defending champion at Tampa Bay, with Padraig Harrington setting the 18 hole course record here last year with a 61. Vijay Singh holds the 72 hole record of 266 in 2004. The winner Sunday will pick up 500 FedEx Cup points.
The field in Tampa will not be nearly as strong as we had last weekend, but is interesting to say the least. With players wanting pad their stats during the shortened season, and many players looking to get their games together before going to Augusta, this field is very respectful.
Defending champion Luke Donald is joined by six other pros among this week’s top 20 in the world rankings. The list also includes World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play champ Matt Kuchar (No.8), along with No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen and No. 7 Adam Scott. … Kuchar is among three of this season’s winners in the lineup, along with Brian Gay (Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation) and Michael Thompson (The Honda Classic).
Ernie Els has pulled out of the competition, citing physical problems, and FedEx Cup points leader Brandt Snedeker in not scheduled to return until next week with his lingering rib injuries that were sustained at the Humana Challenge in January. We haven’t seen Snedeker since his victory at Pebble Beach.
Golfers to watch this weekend, who are coming in on a hot streak, are Sergio Garcia who finished T3 at Doral last weekend, and has finished in the top 25 in his last 12 straight outings, going all the way back to his victory at The Wyndahm. Adam Scott got very hot Sunday in difficult conditions at Doral, shooting the lowest score of the tournament, and finishing in a tie with Garcia for third place.
Honda Classic Champion, Michael Thompson has picked up some confidence with his first tour win, and was strong at Doral with a T 8 finish on Sunday. Last but not least, defending champ, Luke Donald was tied for 43 place at Doral, and if he could have skipped the 18th hole, might have challenged Tiger for the win. I am sure he has replaced all of the balls he lost at Doral, and will be tuned up, and ready to go on Thursday in Tampa.
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