March 07, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Kevin Streelman is the defending champion at the Valspar Championship. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
COURSE: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), 7,340 yards, par 71. With tree-lined fairways and rolling terrain, the 1972 Larry Packard creation offers a vastly different visual opposed to the flatter layouts around the rest of the Florida Swing. Double doglegs await on two par-5s, putting a premium on positioning to reach the green in two. The final three holes have been dubbed the “Snake Pit,” with two bruising par-4s sandwiched around the 215-yard 17th. Innisbrook served 24 years as site of the JC Penney team event pairing PGA TOUR and LPGA pros, then became a regular stop in 2000.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
CHARITY: Copperhead Charities Inc., which distributes funds to more than 70 Tampa Bay-area charities. The Copperheads have raised more than $30 million since the group’s inception in 1978.
FIELD WATCH: Jordan Spieth, who used Innisbrook as a springboard to last year’s Rookie of the Year season, heads a roster that features 10 of the top 30 in this week’s Official World Golf Ranking. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and No. 11 Matt Kuchar also are committed. … Former British Open winner Darren Clarke makes his first visit to Innisbrook, playing on a sponsor invite. … Exemptions also went to Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka - rising European Tour pros who reside in Florida - and reigning NCAA champion Max Homa.
72-HOLE RECORD: 266, Vijay Singh (2004).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Padraig Harrington (1st round, 2012).
LAST YEAR: Kevin Streelman parlayed a bogey-free weekend into his first PGA TOUR victory, carding 65-67 to finish two shots ahead of hard-charging Boo Weekley. Streelman’s splendid 5-iron to six feet for birdie at No. 13 broke him free from a duel with Justin Leonard, then ran home a 20-foot birdie at No. 17 to provide some cushion. Weekley began his round some three hours ahead of the leaders, but used strong ballstriking to fashion an 8-under 63 that was 8.6 shots better than the field average. Spieth tied for seventh, which was enough to qualify for an upgrade to Special Temporary status. He later became a full member by winning the John Deere Classic.
STORYLINES: After seeing just one man notch his first PGA TOUR win in the first 10 editions at Innisbrook, it’s happened twice in the past three years with Gary Woodland’s 2011 triumph preceding Streelman. Top candidates this week: Russell Knox, part of a four-man playoff at The Honda Classic, and world No. 28 Graham DeLaet. ... Streelman returns to Innisbrook seeking to find his form again. He tied for third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but didn’t crack the top 30 in his next three starts. ... The tournament has yet to see a back-to-back champion. Just three titleholders have finished in the top 10 a year later.
SHORT CHIPS: Copperhead’s “Snake Pit” ranked No. 6 among last year’s toughest closing three-hole stretches, averaging .637 strokes above par. That actually was tougher than 2012, trailing only Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo) and Muirfield Village (the Memorial) among non-major venues. ... Barring a late WD, Brian Gay will remain the only man to tee it up every year at Innisbrook since the event joined the schedule in 2000. His best finish was a tie for fourth in 2007. ... Scott Brown is set for a TOUR-high 13th start in this wraparound season. He has sat out only when ineligible for WGC stops (HSBC Champions, Match Play), plus Phoenix.
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC).
RADIO: Thursday- Sunday, noon-6 p.m. ET (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM).