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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Promise kept as Poulter - and his fire - return to Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – In December 2016, in one of his lowest moments as a pro, Ian Poulter sat on stage at a PGA of America dinner and fielded questions from the audience.

One of the queries was this: What’s left for you in golf?

“I feel I’ve got more wins in me,” he replied that day. “And I’m going to make the team in Paris.”

That much appeared in doubt. 

Earlier that year, Poulter underwent foot surgery and missed the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Relegated to a vice-captain role, he could only watch as the Europeans got dismantled and saw their three-match winning streak come to an end.

Poulter’s own game suffered, too. Before the injury he’d already slipped outside the top 75 in the world – his lowest position since 2003 – and his freefall continued into early 2017, when he plummeted all the way to No. 207.

Then came a surprise runner-up finish at The Players that helped him secure his PGA Tour card for the next season, and then, at age 42, he enjoyed one of his best years. In April he won the Houston Open for his third PGA Tour title (and first since 2012) and then posted solid finishes at The Players, U.S. Open, Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Though he lacked the necessary points to qualify for the European team automatically, he was as much a lock for a captain’s pick as a healthy Tiger Woods on the U.S. side.


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“There’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you once were,’” he said. “But that’s been a goal for the last 20 months. It’s been something that has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.

“It was difficult being a vice captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past, and I wanted to help the team in any way I could. But I felt like this time around, I really wanted to make the team. I’m pretty proud.”

Poulter and Sergio Garcia are the heartbeats of the European side, veterans have who seen everything in the Ryder Cup, who have plenty of pull in the team room, who know how to handle the most stressful situations.

With a 12-4-2 record, no European Ryder Cupper has a better win-loss mark than Poulter. At Medinah, he seemed to single-handedly bring the visitors back from the dead, teaming with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy to win three matches, then capturing a point in singles, as well, as the Europeans matched the largest final-day comeback in tournament history.

“He’s a legend,” said European teammate Tyrrell Hatton.

Poll any U.S. team member, and Poulter is still the guy they most likely want to beat – not necessarily because he’s the best player on the European side, but because his success seems to fuel his teammates.

“I take it as a huge compliment,” Poulter said. “It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.”

Poulter was the first European player out on the range on Monday – he didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship – and captain Thomas Bjorn joked that Poulter “wanted to go midweek last week, if he could.”

“He looks forward to this,” Bjorn said. “We all know Ian’s history and feelings about the Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He’s that type of guy. He’s certainly ready to go.”

Some brave reporter asked Poulter whether he’s preparing for this to be his final home Ryder Cup, whether he’s trying to “drink it all in.”

It was a reasonable question – he will be 46 during the 2022 matches in Italy – but Poulter stared a hole through him.

“It won’t be,” he said flatly.

Then he softened.

“I’d like to think I’ve got more in me, I’ll say that,” he said. “I think how I’ve played this year is hopefully the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. The reason I answered it that way is I don’t want to think this is my last hurrah.”

But if it is, well, you can guarantee that Europe’s fieriest player will try and go out in a blaze of glory.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.


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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

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All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.


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“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”