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March 12 2013

8:40 AM

Turf Talk: Copperhead Course

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor

One year after tweaks to the Copperhead course’s last two greens helped bring the Tampa Bay Championship its first playoff – and a chorus of player complaints – the greens have reverted to something closer to their previous state.

“There was too much movement on the greens,” said Ryan Stewart, Innisbrook Resort’s course superintendent. “Trying to read putts, there was just an unbelievable amount of movement.”

Nos. 17 and 18 are part of the Copperhead’s finishing “Snake Pit,” which last year ranked No. 4 among the PGA TOUR’s most difficult three-hole closing stretches. But in trying to add new pin placements and toughen up some flatter areas, the pendulum swung.

In adding a new front-left pin position at No. 18, the loss of rough there kicked many approach shots toward the grandstand. The Sunday flag wasn’t quite so severe, but nonetheless taxing on the four-man playoff.

Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Sang-Moon Bae couldn’t get close to the hole, and Luke Donald won by sinking a 10-foot birdie putt.

“Donald got a little lucky on his [approach],” Stewart said. “It just stopped dead. Those greens are tough enough as it is.”

After last year’s event, a TOUR architect was called out to soften the most severe undulations. The 18th green also was scaled back to its original dimensions.

As was the case at PGA National and TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral, the mild winter in Florida means players will find lusher conditions for this week’s event. Not only is the winter ryegrass healthy, the underlying layer of Bermuda is still growing.

“We’ve got the best of both worlds,” Stewart said. “With both grasses being healthy and strong, it helps us out this year. I’d say the course overall looks really good.”

Stewart said his biggest challenge is on the greens, where the poa trivialis also is thriving in warm conditions. Too much leafiness, he said, threatens to slow the accustomed putting speeds.

Rain is in Tuesday’s forecast, after which sunshine and gradually warming temperatures will rule the weekend. An 80-degree day is forecast for Sunday’s final round.

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