Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course is beloved by PGA TOUR membership, arguably quietly so. If you ever wondered how much, all you need to do is review how many past champions commit to the Valspar Championship. It's not that they have to, it's because they want to.
Thirteen of the 16 winners in tournament history are scheduled to tee it up this week, including two-time champions K.J. Choi and Retief Goosen. Indeed, it's a fun, fair, stern test in Palm Harbor, Florida, (tucked between Tampa and the Gulf of Mexico) that doesn't look like it belongs in the Sunshine State what with tight, tree-lined fairways and generous elevation changes.
You'll find defending champion Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Russell Knox and other notables in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
As part of a renovation project in advance of last year's Valspar Championship, Copperhead debuted Celebration Bermudagrass on its fairways and TifEagle Bermuda on the greens. With moderate to gusty winds contributing to the challenge, pound for pound the course was one of the most difficult of the season.
With a scoring average of 72.618, it ranked as the hardest par 71 in a non-major in 2015-16. Its percentages of fairways hit (55.92) and greens in regulation (55.33) were all-time lows in the tournament. The field of 144 also averaged 39 feet, one inch, on approach, sixth-longest of the season, and converted only 23.35 percent of its chances to break par, slotting it the fourth-toughest.
En route to his playoff victory over Bill Haas, Charl Schwartzel traded 18 birdies with 11 bogeys to post 7-under 277. He co-led the field in par-5 scoring (10 birdies, five pars, one bogey), which is a sneaky factor for success at Copperhead since it has a full slate of four par 5s despite its overall par. This is due to the fact that it has five par 3s, three of which on the inward par 35. (For more on this, see Tuesday's Comfort Zone.)
The last 1,135 yards of the 7,340-yard test comprise the Snake Pit plainly known as the par-4 16th, par-3 17th and par-4 18th holes. Collectively, they averaged 0.598 strokes over par, which is merely a three-year high. Schwartzel scored 1-over for the week on the closing set. It's the classic stretch on which the tournament will be lost more than it will be won.
The long-range weather forecast is favorable until Sunday when the threat for rain enters the picture. In the meantime, daytime highs in the upper 70s will be accompanied by passing clouds and gentler breezes than a year ago.
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 columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Comfort Zone, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.