TOUR Insider: Copperhead has a Carolina feel to it

March 14, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Close your eyes. Now, imagine you are on a golf course with steep changes in elevation.

Inhale, and there's the scent of pine. It's a golf course lined with pine trees and there is a bed of pine needles on the floor of the forest.

NOTABLE GROUPS: Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson will have a rematch of their final-round duel from 2011. Notable groups | Tee times
TURF TALK: Get some inside info about Copperhead conditions from Ryan Stewart, the course superintendent. Read
INSIDE THE SNAKE PIT: The brutal finishing three-hole stretch at Copperhead is often the difference between victory and defeat. Read
FEDEXCUP RACE: Believe it or not, the FedExCup regular season is already one-thirds complete. Here are the big winners so far. Read

Carolina? Georgia? Nope. You're in Florida.

The land of flat fairways actually has a golf course with elevation changes and that's this week's stop on the PGA TOUR, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook, host of the Transitions Championship.

The clubhouse sits on a hill with the course flowing away, providing an 80-yard drop in elevation. The topography is unique in Florida, and that elevation change is what makes this a special week on the PGA TOUR.

Courses in the Sunshine State are usually windswept, and flat as an ironing board. The lack of some hills can make for a repetitive layout.

That's not the case at the Innisbrook Resort. The Cooperhead course gives a wake-up call on the first tee, with a double-dogleg par 5 that drops down from an elevated tee then climbs to the green.

The variety and difficulty culminates on the 16th hole, a 475-yard dogleg right with water down the entire right side.

Squeezed between the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, one would expect a lot of the world's best players to take a week off, but that's not the case. Five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are competing this week, and a lot of it is due to the golf course.

Good courses attract good players.

If you ever wonder how good a golf course is, check the tournament field for either Geoff Ogilvy or Jim Furyk. Both players are astute critics of course architecture and partly set their schedules by the quality of the venue

If both Ogilvy and Furyk are in the field, there's a good chance it's a good layout.

Just remind yourself the TOUR is in Florida this week, and not North Carolina.

Power Outage: Nick Watney has a strange stat this year. He's averaging 284.5 yards per drive, which ranks 130th on TOUR. That number is way down from 2011, when Watney was 16th on TOUR in driving distance, averaging 301.9 yards. It's early in the year, and only 40 of Watney's drives have been measured, so the stat is just a snapshot of his entire body of work. Despite the disparity in distance, Watney is having a good ball-striking season. He's 13th on TOUR in greens in regulation. Still, the lack of distance in drives is notable.

Direct Connect: Woodland

The 2011 Transitions Championship winner answers questions from the fans.

Coaching change: Players change coaches all the time but it's very rare that a coach will drop a player. That was the situation Gary Woodland experienced this winter. He worked a half dozen years with Randy Smith and the partnership was a good one, leading to last year's victory in he Transitions Championship. This winter, Woodland changed management companies going from Hambric Sports to Excel Sports, where Smith's son Blake was his agent.

Out of family loyalty, Randy Smith decided it was wrong to continue his relationship with Woodland. Gary has now been working with Butch Harmon, making a swing change that is still a work in progress. Woodland begins defense of is Transitions Championship this week ranked 73rd in FedExCup points.

Glover returns: It's good to see Lucas Glover making his 2012 debut this week after suffering a knee injury in Hawaii. Lucas hurt his knee while paddleboarding early in the week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and I did not see him until the following Tuesday in the Honolulu airport. It was reported Lucas had a mild knee strain and would attempt to play in that week's Sony Open in Hawaii. Once I saw Lucas, I realized that report was completely wrong. He could barely walk getting off the plane, and was in obvious pain. The fact Lucas has missed the first ten weeks of the PGA TOUR season demonstrates how serious that knee injury was, and how fragile a player's career can be.

Exit Strategy: It's good to hear Tiger Woods' injury does not appear to be serious, but his withdrawal from last week's WGC-adillac Championship remains one of the more bizarre exits of the season. The fact Tiger withdrew was not extraordinary. He was noticeably limping, and his game was impaired. It was how he left the golf course that was remarkable. Woods took a cart ride from the 12th hole, to the player parking lot, to his car and immediately left. I don't know if he even his changed his golf shoes.

He didn't stop at the clubhouse to clean out his locker, and he didn't visit to the trainer's trailer. Tiger rarely uses his locker, but there's usually some golf balls and extra shoes to pack away. When he withdrew from THE PLAYERS Championship last year, he took a few minutes to update the media. Not this time. Not even a bag of ice for the sore Achilles. That was one quick getaway.

Winner, winner: I'm liking Charl Schwartzel this week. Schwartzel has finished in the top five in seven of his last 11 worldwide tournaments. His combination of length and ball-striking should be ideal for Copperhead. If you like some longer odds, look at Peter Hanson. He brings a lot of momentum into the Transitions Championship, posting a fifth at the WGC Cadillac Championship. He was 15th at Copperhead in 2011.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, [click here].