Power Rankings: Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBankMarch 11, 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist
A kinder, gentler Copperhead? You might have trouble convincing the field of 156 at this week's Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank of that. Yet, the trend is headed in that direction.
Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course, a par 71 with five par 3s and four par 5s, hosts for the 12th time this week. And if there's such a thing as a learning curve for a golf course, the touring professionals are ahead of it. Last year's scoring average of 70.732 was a record low for the event. It ranked fifth-easiest of 11 par 71s used all season. That's a far cry from its debut on the Florida Swing in 2007 when it played as the most difficult of 10 par 71s in non-majors at 72.005. It then exceeded that split in each of the following two editions.
Doglegs and tree-lined chutes off tees define Larry Packard's 1972 creation and rolling terrain also looks out of place in central Florida but the union of all of the design attributes contributes to Copperhead's popularity on the PGA TOUR. It can stretch to 7,340 yards but the course annually ranks among the shortest in average driving distance. Last year's clip of 281.5 yards placed 11th-lowest on TOUR, but it was the longest the track has averaged since its move to March to coincide with the FedExCup era.
Hitting fairways and greens in regulation is quite average as compared to all other tracks on the schedule, but getting up and down for par has become pedestrian in recent years. In 2012, Copperhead ranked fourth-easiest in scrambling at 62.88 percent. It marked the fourth consecutive year of an increase in scrambling since the course was seventh-most challenging on TOUR in 2008 at just 53.09 percent.
Even the Snake Pit -- holes 16, 17 and 18, a par 3 sandwiched by a pair of par 4s -- isn't as menacing as the name suggests. While it ranked fourth-hardest in aggregate scoring of the final three holes of any course in 2012, its average of 0.519 strokes over par was its second-lowest since 2007. The 16th hole has been the most difficult hole at Copperhead each year since 2010.
Outstanding weather is expected throughout the tournament, although it could be breezy during the opening round after which winds are forecast to abate. Sunny skies will accompany gradually rising temperatures that will top out in the mid-70s by Sunday.
Power Rankings: Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank Rank Player Comment Sergio GARCIA Coming off a T3 at the WGC-Cadillac, his 12th straight top 25 dating back to his Wyndham win last season. Ranked T2 in greens in regulation at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral. Top 20s in his last two starts at Copperhead. Webb SIMPSON Tied for 20th at the WGC-Cadillac despite placing 43rd in strokes gained-putting; ranked 18th in scrambling. In the last three editions of the Tampa Bay Championship, he's finished T13 (2010), solo second (2011) and T10 (2012). Adam SCOTT Shared third place at the WGC-Cadillac, where he scored progressively lower in every round, capping off his week with a field-low 64. Led the field in total driving and ranked T13 in greens hit. Also finished first in par-5 scoring average. Luke DONALD The defending champion led last year's field in strokes gained-putting and ranked sixth in scrambling. Although he finished T43 at last week's WGC-Cadillac, he led the field in proximity to the hole and ranked T13 in greens hit. Jason DUFNER Fresh off a season-best T12 at the WGC-Cadillac where he ranked T4 in GIR, second in both proximity to the hole and scrambling, and T3 in par-4 scoring average. Since 2009, he's 4-for-4 at Copperhead; career-best T10 last year. Jim FURYK After winning at Copperhead in 2010, he tied for 13th in 2011, and then lost in a playoff last year when he ranked second in proximity to the hole and fourth in greens in regulation. Currently fifth on the PGA TOUR in fairways hit. Jason DAY A forgettable T33 at the WGC-Cadillac was highlighted by a second-round 66 and he ranked 13th in strokes gained-putting for the week. En route to a career-best T20 at Copperhead last year, placed T3 in par-3 scoring average (2.85). Michael THOMPSON Quietly chased his breakthrough victory at The Honda Classic with a T8 at the WGC-Cadillac where he ranked second in fairways hit and T9 in greens in regulation. Tied for 16th in his debut at Copperhead last year. Matt Kuchar Failed to generate any momentum at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral where he didn't deviate from par until a Sunday 71. Hit just half of his greens in regulation for the week. Placed T12 at Copperhead in 2009 and T10 last year. Scott PIERCY Shared 25th place at the WGC-Cadillac. Co-led the field in total driving and ranked 15th in strokes gained-putting. Currently 37th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting. Polished off a T5 at Copperhead last year with a field-low 62. Louis OOSTHUIZEN Tied for 20th in his debut here last year, mixing trademark distance off the tee with a strong effort with his irons. Also ranked 27th in strokes gained-putting for the week. Shared 33rd place at last week's WGC-Cadillac. Geoff OGILVY Ranked T6 in par-3 scoring average at the WGC-Cadillac but drifted to a T47 finish after his solo second at the Honda. He's 4-for-4 at Copperhead since 2008. Co-led the field in par-5 scoring average en route to T16 last year. Retief GOOSEN Since his title at Copperhead in 2009, he's finished solo fifth (2010), T28 (2011) and T20 (2012). In last year's edition, he ranked T14 in total driving and 13th in strokes gained-putting. Second in all-time earnings at the event. Nick WATNEY Continues to fight inconsistent putting but ranks fourth on TOUR in greens hit. Perhaps his series of positive results at Copperhead will usher an improvement. He's 7-for-7 with four top 25s. Ranked T10 in GIR here last year. Sang-moon BAE One of the three ousted in a playoff at Copperhead last year. He's struggled putting four rounds together this season but has missed just one of seven cuts. Currently 14th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting and ninth in par breakers.