No. Despite Jordan Spieth’s playoff victory at the 2015 Valspar Championship, the powers that be at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club did not conspire to “Spieth-proof” the Copperhead Course. However, it’s understandable why one would connect those dots since he’s risen from 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking entering that week to a definitive No. 1. Five victories since -- including two majors -- can fuel that speculation, even in jest.
Instead, the Copperhead Course was scheduled for a modernization. The routing and yardage (7,340) for the par-36-35=71 remained unaffected by the work last year, but Larry Packard’s 45-year-old design was due for a facial. (It officially opened in 1972.) Decades of growth had separated bunkers from greens and other courses were passing it by with updates of their own.
The course now features regionally popular Celebration Bermudagrass on the fairways and TifEagle Bermuda on its greens, which are larger thanks to the restoration. Tee boxes are also bigger. Irrigation and drainage are new. The objective was to update while retaining the same look. Aside from a new greenside bunker at the par-4 12th hole and church-pew bunkering right of the fairway of the par-4 18th, returning competitors are unlikely to see much of a difference. If that’s that case, then expect another fair and fun test for the field of 144.
Annually among the toughest par 71s on the PGA TOUR, Copperhead average 0.863 strokes over par last year. An argument could be made that it hosts a putting contest, but that may be neutralized in its first edition with new greens. Among all courses measured last season, it ranked ninth-stingiest in conversion percentage inside 10 feet and was inside the top-10 hardest to hole out in every split inside 25 feet.
Spieth ranked T51 in fairways hit and T32 in greens in regulation. Despite an uninspiring total of scoring opportunities, he ranked third in birdies-or-better percentage and T2 in par breakers (with 19 birdies). Ranking T1 in fewest putts, he led the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green. Four of the other top six on the final leaderboard ranked inside the top five in strokes gained: putting.
The quartet of par 5s at Copperhead ranked third-hardest of all courses at 4.84. That’s in line with recent history of the least scorable sets of par 5s on TOUR. En route to 10-under 274, Spieth finished the week tied for third in scoring average on those holes with eight birdies, seven pars and a bogey.
While not entirely exposed to wind, the element helps defend Copperhead. It will again throughout this week. Seasonable high temperatures in the low 80s will descend into the upper 70s on the weekend when the threat for inclement weather enters the picture.
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's event. Look for the following features later this week:
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One-and-Done, Comfort Zone
THURSDAY: Most-picked players