First Look: Valspar Championship
March 06, 2015
By Jeff Shain , PGATOUR.COM
- March 06, 2015
- Henrik Stenson will make his first visit to the Snake Pit at the Copperhead course. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
• FIELD LIST: Click here to see who's set to tee it up for the Valspar Championship.
• COURSE: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), 7,340 yards, par 71. With tree-lined fairways and rolling terrain, the 1972 Larry Packard creation stands in contrast to the flatter layouts elsewhere on the Florida Swing. The Copperhead also consistently ranks high among PGA TOUR players for its no-nonsense demands. Double doglegs await on two par-5s, putting a premium on positioning to reach the green in two, and the final three holes make up the Snake Pit – two bruising par-4s sandwiched around the 215-yard 17th. Innisbrook served 24 years as site of the JC Penney team event pairing PGA TOUR and LPGA pros, then became a regular stop in 2000.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: Copperhead Charities Inc., which has raised more than $32 million since the group’s inception in 1978. Some 70 Tampa Bay-area charities receive donations, including All Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity and the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation.
• FIELD WATCH: World No.3 Henrik Stenson, making his first visit to Innisbrook, and No.5 Adam Scott join defending champion John Senden in a lineup that features four of the top 10 in the current rankings and 11 of the top 30. … Georgia Tech senior Ollie Schniederjans, No.1 in the world amateur rankings, tests his skills against PGA TOUR competition for the first time via a sponsor exemption. … Jimmy Brandt, winner of Golf Channel’s “Big Break: Myrtle Beach” competition, also tees it up on a sponsor invite.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 266, Vijay Singh (2004).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Padraig Harrington (1st round, 2012).
• LAST YEAR: Senden birdied twice in his final pass through the Snake Pit to end a seven-year victory drought, outpacing Kevin Na by a stroke. The 42-year-old Aussie chipped in for birdie at No.16 to break a three-way tie for the lead, following with a 20-foot birdie at the par-3 17th that Na matched to keep hopes alive for a playoff. Na’s drive at No.18, though, came to rest in the first cut of rough and his second shot rolled to the back of the green. Senden, who jumped into contention with a Saturday 64, picked up his first victory anywhere since the 2006 Australian Open. Five months earlier, he captured the John Deere Classic for his first PGA TOUR win.
• STORYLINES: Though Luke Donald has scuffled to regain the form that made him No.1 in the world, Innisbrook seems to bring out the best in his game. He’ll seek to extend a run of four consecutive top-6 finishes on the Copperhead, including his 2012 win and a tie for fourth last year. … Jim Furyk, meantime, owns five straight top-20 finishes at Innisbrook, with a victory in 2010 and a playoff loss to Donald two years later. … Senden has been extremely slow out of the gate leading to his title defense. Since a season-opening 68 at Kapalua, he’s broken 70 just one more time in 12 rounds before arriving at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. … Not only has the tournament never produced a back-to-back champion, just three of 14 defending titleholders have finished in the top 10 a year later.
• SHORT CHIPS: Copperhead’s Snake Pit ranked No.5 among last year’s toughest closing three-hole stretches, averaging .564 strokes above par. Quail Hollow’s Green Mile (Wells Fargo) was the runaway No.1, followed by Muirfield Village (Memorial). … For the first time since Innisbrook joined the schedule in 2000, Brian Gay won’t be part of the field. A chronic neck injury has kept him from teeing it up so far this season. … Danny Lee and Nicholas Thompson are set for a TOUR-high 14th start in 16 weeks this season. Neither was eligible for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions; Thompson sat out Pebble Beach and Lee is coming off his one-week break.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC).
• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, noon-6 p.m. ET. Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).