The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort has staged a PGA Tour fixture since the beginning of the century, but only joined the ‘Florida Swing’ section of the schedule in 2007, when moving from its previous autumn slot. Since then, this has become one of the toughest scoring events of the season, with nobody shooting double-digits under par.
There has been a tendency towards bunch-finishes, most memorably when six players tied for second place in 2008. Over the last three renewals, an average of 15 players have finished within five shots of the winner. Usually when leaderboards are that tight, there is mileage in backing outsiders and a high percentage have indeed made the places over the years at Copperhead. However, of the last five champions, only Mark Calcavecchia could be described as an outsider, as opposed to Retief Goosen, Sean O’Hair, KJ Choi and Carl Pettersson.
Course and stats
Copperhead’s main defence lies in fast, tricky, smaller than average Bermuda greens. From that perspective, Florida residents enjoy their usual advantage, but the main concern is to hit quality approaches just to hold them. Previously, the key stats have clearly been scrambling and as one would expect, greens in regulation. Wind can make this course very tough, though the current forecast is for a calm weekend.
Ogilvy can be forgiven a lacklustre effort at Doral as he may have still been a bit rusty, coming off a break for the birth of his child. He closed pretty well with 69, offering hope of a swift return to the world-class form shown when retaining his SBS Championship title in January. With three top 20s from four visits, including a couple of top tens, Ogilvy certainly has the game for Copperhead.
1.5pts ew LUKE DONALD @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Donald can only ever be backed with some reluctance as he’s clearly not reliable under pressure. Nevertheless, he is probably overdue a second PGA Tour title, and appears to have retained his form since finishing runner-up at Riviera. There are few better scramblers than Luke, and as he is also usually very reliable from tee to green, this layout should be ideal.
1.5pts ew STEWART CINK @ 45/1 (GENERAL)
For such an experienced, classy campaigner, Cink’s record over the past season is surprisingly sparse. He’s won a Major and played well in WGC events, but has struggled for consistency in these standard events. Clearly he’s hard to catch right, but Cink did take the eye on Sunday with an outstanding closing-65. That could signal a strong week at a course where he has plenty of cause for confidence, having made the top three twice in last three years.
1pt ew STEPHEN AMES @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
Florida resident Ames underperformed when carrying our cash recently, but is worth another crack at these odds whilst the Tour is in his home state; the scene of three of his four titles. With its emphasis on long game accuracy, Copperhead strikes me as ideal for Ames. His previous course record looks fairly ordinary on paper; made all six cuts, two top 20s with a best of ninth; but because the leaderboard is usually tightly bunched here, he’s usually not been beaten by much.
1pt ew JOHN SENDEN @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
Senden has twice finished runner-up here, once when carrying our cash at 80/1, and always comes in for strong consideration on courses where long game accuracy is essential. This year, there is even greater cause for optimism because he just registered by far his best result to date at Doral, finishing 11th. That birdie-fest was far less suitable than Copperhead, where relentless pars are a positive.
1pt ew RYUJI IMADA @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
Here’s another in-form player with good course form at a big price. Imada has top 15s from three of his last four starts, and finished runner-up at Copperhead in 2008, along with a respectable 13th in 2006. The explanation for that Copperhead form probably lies in the fact that he is one of the best scramblers around.
0.5pt ew HEATH SLOCUM @ 100/1 (GENERAL, 125/1 BETFRED)
Slocum is another formerly successful selection in this event, when finishing runner-up at a similar triple-figure price in 2007. Sentiment does not lie behind my selection, though. This ultra-accurate player recorded some excellent stats at Doral over the weekend, and like Senden, is expected to much prefer this week’s tougher test. Remember, it is only seven months since Slocum beat an elite field to land a Fedex Cup play-off event.