With the Masters just over three weeks away, the world’s best golfers are in search of the form needed to claim the season’s first Major, so another strong field has gathered in Florida. Retief Goosen is the defending champion although a poor display at Doral last week suggests the South African will have his work cut out to repeat his victory, especially with the likes of Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington and WGC-Accenture Match Play champion, Ian Poulter, in the field.
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Tampa has hosted the event since its inception in 2000 and will represent a tough test. The Copperhead Course rated as the ninth most difficult course in the 2009 PGA Tour season. Larry Packard originally designed the course in 1971, but renovations in 1999 have increased its distance. That said, low scores are achievable with American duo Jeff Sluman and Mark Calcavecchia sharing the course record of 62.
Venue: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Florida
Date: Mar 18-21
Course stats: par 71, 7,340 yards
Purse: $5,400,000 Winner: $972,000
Defending Champion: Retief Goosen (-8)
Thursday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm
Friday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm
Saturday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm
Sunday 21 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm
Padraig Harrington – The Irishman looked in good shape last week at Doral, finishing in a tie for third. Tough courses don’t hold any fear for the world number ten and it would be no surprise to see him contend this week.
Steve Stricker – Tiger Woods is only a place above Stricker in the rankings so he’s obviously one to watch. He finished in a tie for third last year so with good course form as well, he justifies favouritism.
Justin Rose – The Englishman will be hurt by losing his place in big fields such as last week, but there have been signs of a return to form in recent events with third place at the Honda Classic in strong company suggesting the ‘forgotten man’ is rediscovering his game.
Key hole: 1st. This 560-yard par-5 opener is a double-dogleg. Last year it yielded three eagles and 153 birdies. There may be 17 harder holes on the course but start well and it will stand you in good stead for the rest of the round.
Skills required: The hilly Copperhead Course means players are going to be required to hit many approach shots from uneven lies. Excellent ball-striking with mid to long irons, coupled with the ability to scramble well if going wide with approaches from uneven lies, will be a necessity for players with big ambitions this week.