Power Rankings: Transitions Championship

March 12, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist

Gary Woodland accomplished more than becoming the first first-time winner of the Transitions Championship a year ago. For all intents and purposes, he won the tournament with his putter, not the driver, which is his calling card.

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While the buzz in the immediate aftermath of his breakthrough was centered on the oddity that his only par on the inward nine occurred at his last hole where he rolled in a save from just inside 11 feet to secure a one-stroke margin, it was merely the exclamation point on a tremendous day with the flat stick. He converted all of his putts inside 20 feet that day (measuring over 101 feet in the round), chalking up a Strokes Gained-Putting split of 4.491 in the finale. He ranked third in the stat for the week at 2.009.

Woodland's achievement is further underscored by the fact that the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort is not a bomber's paradise. The average driving distance of last year's field was 277.6 yards, good for fourth-lowest on the PGA TOUR all year. It's ranked inside the top five shortest averages in three of the last four seasons.

Copperhead measures 7,340 yards from the tips and plays to a unique par of 36-35=71 in that it boasts the usual slate of four par 5s. Instead, to shave a stroke, it possesses five par 3s. Three of the one-hitters can be found on the back side -- holes 13, 15 and 17 -- the last of which serves as the midpoint of The Snake Pit. Holes 16-18 played as the seventh-most challenging closing stretch in 2011 at +0.455 strokes to par. The par-4 16th has been the track's most difficult hole in each of the last two years.

Overall last year, Copperhead averaged under par for the first time in its 11-year history dating back to 2000. (The 2001 edition was canceled due to the events of Sept. 11. The tournament moved from fall to March in 2007.) Although its scoring average was 70.817 in 2011, it was the fourth-hardest par 71 of 11 used in non-majors.

Benign weather conditions aided the low numbers in the first three rounds a year ago. Similarly tranquility is on tap throughout the tournament this week. While early-morning fog is always a possibility, primarily sunny skies will eventually dominate. Temperatures are expected to top out in the low 80s. If there's going to be a challenge issued by Mother Nature, it will present itself in the form of wind; however, light to moderate breezes are forecast.

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Power Rankings: Transitions Championship
Rank Player   Comment
His T4 at the WGC-Cadillac was his seventh top five in last 11 starts worldwide. He missed 31 greens at TPC Blue Monster at Doral and limited the damage to seven bogeys. Would lead the TOUR in scrambling and adjusted scoring if he qualified.
Coming off a T8 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, his third straight top 10 at that event. It's also his first top 10 in a relative full-field event anywhere since The Barclays. Shared 12th in his last appearance at the Transitions (2009).
Ended his short-term slump with a share of sixth place at the WGC-Cadillac where he ranked T7 in greens hit and T8 in birdies. Suffered only five holes over par all week. Coincidentally, tied for sixth in his last start at Copperhead (2010).
Led the field in birdies (23) en route to victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. That followed a T5 at The Honda Classic where he held a share of the 36-hole lead. Top 25s in his last five starts at Copperhead, including a career-best T5 in 2011.
Went 3-1 at the WGC-Accenture before a T24 at last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship where he ranked inside the top 15 in both fairways hit and greens in regulation. Still a long-hitter in nature, currently a lofty fourth on the PGA TOUR in GIR.
Chased a 3-1 week at the WGC-Accenture with a T4 at TPC Blue Monster at Doral last week. Averaged 13 greens in regulation per round, good for T4 for the week. Ranked T8 in GIR en route to a share of 15th place at last year's Transitions.
The two-time co-runner-up at Copperhead (2007, 2008) shared sixth place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship for his third top 10 of the year. He ranked T9 in greens in regulation at TPC Blue Monster at Doral and fourth in putting.
Posted his third consecutive T8 in a stroke-play event at last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship where he led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting. Currently 14th on TOUR in the stat and fifth in the all-around. Two top 10s in eight starts here.
Grinding his way back into contention. Polished off a T17 with a 69-67 close, one of just nine guys sub-70 in both rounds on the weekend. Ranked T4 in greens hit and 10th in putting. Top 15s in each of his last three starts at Copperhead.
He's posted T17s in his last two stroke-play events, fading in the final round of both, but he's 17th on TOUR in scoring average and 13th in the all-around. Finished T20 at last year's Transitions and T14 in 2007.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at the Transitions Championship:

11. Jason Day ... Shared 20th place at TPC Blue Monster at Doral where he ranked eighth in Strokes Gained-Putting. Earns a nod as the PGA TOUR's leader in birdies or better on par 3s last year. Logged seven birdies on the par 3s at last year's Transitions.

12. Webb Simpson ... Freefell outside the top 10 in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac with a 5-over 77. However, he was the runner-up at last year's Transitions and finished T13 in 2010. Also has a pair of top 10s already on the board this season.

13. Brandt Snedeker ... Opened last week's WGC-Cadillac with a 3-over 75 but was battling food poisoning at the time. Scored par or better the remainder of the week to place T45. Solo fourth here last year; T8 in 2008. Currently 19th on TOUR in adjusted scoring.

14. Ryo Ishikawa ... Showcased his marvelous short game in Puerto Rico where he missed 23 greens in regulation but suffered only seven bogeys and finished alone in second place to establish a personal best on the PGA TOUR. Took 106 putts, lowest in the field.

15. Jonathan Byrd ... Owns a pair of top 10s this season but his record at Copperhead is too strong to ignore. He's made the cut in all nine appearances with five top 15s and a T20 in 2011. Posted a 67 in either the first or second round in each of the last four years.