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PGA visits Palm Harbor for Valspar Championship

Innisbrook Copperhead Course

Yards: 7,340 per the scorecard

Par: 71 (36-35)

Greens: Bermudagass; 8,220 square feet on average

Rough: Bermudagrass and ryegrass at 2.5”

Stimpmeter: 11.5’

Course Architect: Larry Packard (1972)

Purse: $5,700,000

Winner’s Share : $1,026,000

FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner

Defending Champion: Kevin Streelman defeated Boo Weekley by two shots for his first TOUR victory

Dates: March 13-16

Format: Stroke play

Notes: As of Monday afternoon, 15 of the top 50 players in the OWGR rankings are entered this week.

From windswept ocean-side courses flush with water hazards and bunkers to hills, trees and doglegs, the Copperhead Course will be very “un-Florida”-like in its position on the Florida Swing. Sure, it still has Bermudagrass greens the players have to navigate but the test of golf will come from working the tee ball in both directions and finding the putting stroke on these massive greens.

Over the years, the list of champions would suggest ball-strikers as the obvious choices but Luke Donald proved in 2012 that a great short game doesn’t hurt either. Jim Furyk, the winner in 2010, isn’t exactly long off the tee either but these two are the exceptions, not the rules.

The Copperhead Course calls its final three holes “The Snake Pit” and the players will have to find a way to survive the three toughest holes on the golf course. Missing the fairways or green during this 4-3-4 finish will result in difficult second shots and a chance to put it in reverse coming to the finish line. This won’t bother experienced pros who have played The Bear Trap and the Blue Monster the last two weeks but it could affect a youngster looking for win No. 1. Bogeys will be made. Patience will be needed. Big numbers will need to be avoided.

The pros always rate this course very highly because it takes golf shots to win this tournament rather than abusing it with sheer power. Working the golf ball off the tee in both directions is rewarded as is hitting fairways and getting up and down. Guys who spray it off the tee this week and aren’t used to racking up GIR will have to bring their escape acts just to keep up. Believe it or not, the course record is 61, set by Padraig Harrington in the first round in 2012. He didn’t have another round below par that year as he finished T20. Boo Weekley snuck into second last year with his final round 63. Great shots find great rewards!

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