The PGA Tour’s “Florida Swing” continues this week with the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. Gary Woodland defends the title and a strong field has assembled.
This tournament began life in 2000 as the Tampa Bay Classic. It’s also been known as the Chrysler Championship and the Pods Championship. Transitions, the lens maker, took over as title sponsor in 2009.
Designed by Larry Packard and opened in 1974, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook has played host to 13 PGA Tour events over the years. In 1999 the layout was revamped to bring it in line with the modern game. The redesign was completed just in time for the 1999 JCPenney Classic, an event won by John Daly and Laura Davies.
Unusually for a West Coast Florida course, the track features some fairly significant changes in elevation – up to 80 feet. It has traditionally been one of the tougher courses visited by the PGA Tour. Although last season it played a little easier, ranked 27th of the 51 tracks visited on the circuit.
Last season long hitter Gary Woodland holed a clutch, 10-foot par putt on the final green to beat Webb Simpson by a single stroke.
Both men return this year to Innisbrook and an impressive field line up, including a number of European stars, will join them. Last week’s winner Justin Rose is on the start sheet, so is World Number 2 Luke Donald, Scotland’s Martin Laird and Sergio Garcia of Spain.
Venue: Innisbrook Resort, Copperhead, Palm Harbor, Florida
Date: Mar 15-18
Course stats: par 71, 7,340 yards
Purse: $5,500,000 Winner: $990,000
Defending Champion: Gary Woodland (-15)
Thursday 15 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Friday 16 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Saturday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 5pm
Sunday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 5pm
Webb Simpson – Last year’s runner-up has become one of the world’s best players since the last hosting of this tournament. He played well last week in the Cadillac despite a disappointing final round.
Ryo Ishikawa – Came close to securing his first PGA Tour victory in last week’s Puerto Rico Open where he displayed his skill around the greens. He had fewer putts than anyone in that event.
Luke Donald – Showed he might be coming back to his best with a tied sixth in the Cadillac. This course should suit his style of play, he was tied sixth in his last start in this event two years ago.
Key Hole: 16th. This 460 yard par-4 ranked as the toughest hole on the course in the 2011 competition. Water is a factor all down the right hand side.
Skills required: Despite Gary Woodland’s power from the tee. It’s not long driving that tends to win the day at Innisbrook. Far more important is the putter – Woodland holed every putt he faced from inside 20 feet during the final round last year.