PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Players who typically hit a draw off the tee might find a little more breathing room this week when they get to the Valspar Championship’s par-3 eighth hole.
Over the years, a large tree has gradually pinched in along the right side of the launch zone at the 235-yard hole, longest of the five par-3s scattered throughout Innisbrook Resort’s venerable Copperhead layout.
Following last year’s event, Innisbrook officials made the decision to open things up again.
“It was affecting some players’ shot ability – effectively blocking out half the green from the tee,” said Innisbrook superintendent Ryan Stewart. “It just affected playability. They can now shape their shots a little better.”
Just how much it affects competitors this week largely depends on their flight patterns.
“Guys that predominantly draw the ball, and draw it hard – it could be significant,” said 2010 champion Jim Furyk. “If you were to talk to guys like Ryan Palmer or Kenny Perry, guys that hit it right-to-left, it’s something they’ll notice.”
For those who hit a fade, the change figures to be little more than cosmetic – if they notice the vacancy at all.
“It’s probably more visual for a lot of guys,” Furyk said.
Depending on the wind, anything from a mid-iron to a hybrid is required to reach a green that’s somewhat diamond-shaped, with bunkers guarding the front before the putting surface opens up.
No. 8 typically ranks as the fifth-toughest on the Copperhead. In most years, only the “Snake Pit” holes of Nos. 16-18 gives up fewer birdies.
“It’s always felt like a narrow tee shot just because the front of the green is very narrow,” said reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
Whether those statistics change much with one tree’s loss remains to be seen.
“A straight shot still works on that hole,” Rose quipped.