PGA TOUR Moves to Tampa Bay this Week


The PGA Tour moves north to the Tampa Bay area this week from Miami, but some players might think they took a detour to Georgia or North Carolina.

The Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor - host club for the Transitions Championship - features the kind of soaring pine trees and elevation changes not normally associated with the St. Pete-Clearwater area, where palm trees and sea level elevations are more the rule.

The pros will take on Innisbrooks challenging par 71 Copperhead course - one of four 18s on the property.  Designed in the early 1960s by Chicago golf course architect Larry Packard, the course stretches more than 7,300 yards across hilly, tree-lined terrain.

Defending champion Gary Woodland edged Webb Simpson by one stroke last year, as both shot four rounds in the 60s.  The strapping Kansan finished at 15-under par on rounds of 67-68-67-67.   Simpson also had three 67s but he shot 69 on Sunday, demonstrating once again the thin line between victory and second place on the PGA Tour.

With so many international players currently stateside in the run-up to the Masters, the Transitions attracts a diverse field.  The field is well worth watching on Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday) and NBC (weekend) even without a few of the big names. 

Among the American players in the field are Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, Brandt Snedeker, Mark Wilson and Bo Van Pelt, all of whom are ranked within the top 26 in the world.  Zach Johnson (46th) also is in the field along with 2008 John Deere Classic champion Kenny Perry. Perry normally plays the over-50 Champions Tour, but the senior circuit is dark this week and Perry is doing well by his sponsor, Transitions.  Other JDC past champs in the field include Sean OHair (2005), who also won on this course in 2008; Jonathan Byrd (2007), and Vijay Singh (2003).

International players in the field include No. 2-ranked Luke Donald, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, 2006 JDC champ John Senden, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera, and 20-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, runner-up last week at the Puerto Rican Open.

The week also marks the return of Hank Kuehne, who has been off the Tour since 2007 because of a back injury.  Kuehne, who tied for second at the 2005 JDC, was treated by a specialist in Germany not long ago and is making his comeback now.  He has 18 events in 2012 to earn $636,221 and regain his Tour playing privileges.

This week marks Transitions final week as tournament sponsor, after four years.  The Tour is optimistic about finding a sponsor for the event, but word is it could move to the fall.
All in all, a good event and part of an awesome Florida Swing that wraps up next week with Arnies event at Bay Hill in Orlando.

TPC DEERE RUN TO OPEN FRIDAY

TPC Deere Run will open for play this Friday (March 16), 10 days earlier and 30 degrees warmer than last year.

Head pro Andy Stotereau said Paul Grogans grounds crew has mowed the greens and fairways a couple of times already in anticipation of the opening.  Stotereau said the course came out of the winter in great shape.

Tee times are available online at tpc.com/deererun or by calling the pro shop at 309-796-6000.

MAGIC HAPPENS HERE

JULY 10 - 16