Play where the pros play at the Copperhead at Tampa's Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 26, 2012, 5:00 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Of the four courses at Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort, the Island Course might be the toughest, the South Course is the trickiest, and the North Course is a fine course but not nearly as tough as the others.

But it's the Copperhead Course that is the most well known. That's where the PGA Tour hosts the Transitions Championship as part of the Florida Swing every March, and the highlight of a great week of golf at the resort, which, because of its five restaurants and transportation throughout the resort, means you never have to leave.

All of the courses -- which are in excellent shape -- are challenging at Innisbrook, but Copperhead can be a monster.

Copperhead, designed by Larry Packard, has been a staple in Tampa Bay-area golf since 1972. It plays to 7,340 yards from the tips, and it's the longest of the Innisbrook courses. It has received rave reviews from some of the top players in golf.

'If I could only play one course the rest of my life, it would be Copperhead,' Curtis Strange said. 'It has that much character.'

'Copperhead is the best course we play on the tour,' Paul Azinger added.

Copperhead deserves its reputation and is a must-play course for anyone traveling to Tampa. Although the four courses at the resort -- along with its six nationally renowned golf institutes -- can make it difficult to leave Innisbrook, there are plenty of other courses nearby for anyone looking for a getaway.

But that really is not necessary.

Copperhead starts tough and doesn't get much easier. The opening hole is a 500-yard par 5 with a tight landing area featuring sand to the left and trees to the right. It's almost impossible to cut off enough to go for the green in two, but the brave will have to deal with water and a bunker to the right of the green. Get a par or bogey and move along.

The third is a tricky 455-yard par 4 with water running down both sides of the dogleg right and traps surrounding the green. Like most of the holes at Copperhead, the fairways are extremely tight. The length may make it appealing to bring out the driver, but hitting it straight and curving your shots is vital at Copperhead.

No. 5, a 605-yard par 5, is one of the longest in Tampa Bay and the No. 1 handicap hole at Copperhead. It requires a long carry over water from the tee, then trees everywhere leading to a small green with bunkers on both sides. With a dogleg left, only a massive drive makes it possible to get close in two. Play it safe.

The back nine is a lot shorter, but it still has bite. The 14th is a long par 5 at 590 yards, and to even consider reaching in two requires a right-to-left bomb off the tee and a left-to-right approach to avoid the water that fronts the right side of the green. Only the best can reach any of the par 5s at the Copperhead in two, so unless you are playing in the Transitions Championship, don't even think about it.

Two holes later comes the longest par 4 on the course, the 475-yard 16th. It is a severe dogleg right, and cutting anything off is tough because there is water all the way down the right side. There's a reasonably generous landing area, but it still requires about 200 yards over water and through a tunnel of trees to reach the small green.

It's tough, but the amenities are great and people come back every year to test the four courses -- and Copperhead is usually the highlight.

'It's just fun to play where the pros play,' said Frank Dormandy of Houston. 'They treat us great, the course is in great shape, but Copperhead might be my favorite course anywhere.'

Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort: The verdict

The Copperhead Course is long and tight and extremely hard. There are no breaks. A lot of people think Innisbrook's Island Course is the hardest at the resort, but the Copperhead holds its own against any course on the PGA Tour. Spend a week at Innisbrook and you'll never have to start your car.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”