Innisbrooks Copperhead course lets you play where the pros love to play

By March 16, 2010, 7:01 pm
innisbrook copperhead

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – As golfers, it's a special treat to play where the pros play. But to take that one step further and play where the pros love to play? Now that’s rarified air.

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The Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, host of the Transitions Championship, is such a place. Paul Azinger once said, “Copperhead is the best course we play on tour.' Stewart Cink believes “they should play a U.S. Open on this course.”

Playing Copperhead, the best of four superb courses at the resort, is a treat under any circumstances. Playing it the way the pros do, minus the talent of course, enhances the experience all the more.

'You can get an appreciation of what they face in their approaches by playing the green, or even the white tees,' said Doug Schmidt, Innisbrook’s director of marketing, who said he's seen the pros attack the course seven times and played it himself at least 100 times.

No. 2, for example, is a sharp dogleg left. You can either play safe to the right-center or bomb it over the trees that guard the dogleg. Even if you play it safe, you still have the lake to contend with. The closer you get to the water, the better route you'll have to the green.

The pros let the weather dictate what they do here. With a helping wind, many bomb it over the trees with driver. With the wind a hindrance, which it is almost every day when it kicks up from the nearby Gulf of Mexico, it's back to the safety of the 3-wood.

Even though Copperhead is 7,340 yards from the back tees, distance isn't its biggest test.

'To me, it's a thinking man's course,' Schmidt said. 'That's why Jeff Sluman can shoot a 62.'

How did the light-hitting Sluman do it?

'I was unconscious when I started and I never woke up the whole round,' Sluman told reporters after his sizzling first-round 62 in 2004.

In fact, Copperhead was one of the toughest tests on tour this past year, harder even than Augusta National, Pebble Beach or Torrey Pines South, according to PGA Tour statistics.

Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort: The verdict

Copperhead is a golf course of angles and slopes, elevation and execution, risk and reward. The Larry Packard design lies atop the Ocala Sand Ridge, a geological formation that extends across the state to Ocala and terminates in the north in Jacksonville. That elevation can make a two or three-club difference.

Almost every hole has some sort of risk/reward, even if it's not always initially obvious. You have to stay focused the entire round, if not necessarily unconscious. Play wily and stay below the hole.

Of course, even if you're trying to see the layout the way the pros do, you're not playing the same course as they do during the actual tournament. For the pros, officials grow the rough to 4 ¼ inches and have the tour-quality greens rolling between 11 and 12 on the stimpmeter.
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.