The PGA Tour moves to Tampa Bay this week for the Valspar Championship which will be played on The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort. We’re back to a full field event with the Top 70 and ties making it through the weekend. This is a great course that brings every type of golfer into play but is usually presented with a less than stellar field due to its placement in the schedule. This week fits that mold as the majority of the top players are taking the week off to prepare for Bay Hill next week. Unlike last week there is plenty of course history here as this tournament has been played at Copperhead since 2000. This course is one of the most difficult on Tour, routinely ranking in the Top 5 most difficult courses year in and year out. Weather and wind can play a major factor here as winds above 15 mph is the norm. Looking at the forecast it doesn’t look like the wind will blow too hard until the weekend but make sure you check the final forecast Wednesday night to see if there is a tee time advantage. One tidbit of information before we get to the course. Nine of the last ten winners here had a Top 10 during the season leading up to their victory at Copperhead.
The Copperhead Course is a 7,340 yard par 71 with FIVE par 3s and four par 5s. The course is usually one of the most difficult par 71 tracks on Tour. It is known for the Snake Pit, a very tough three hole stretch (16, 17, 18) that will probably decide the winner come Sunday. Hole 16 caught my eye because it has a dogleg right off the tee with water lining the whole right side of the fairway making accuracy off the tee a must. If you over compensate and hit it left, trees come into play. If you over fade it (or over draw it for lefties), water is looming. It’s a great hole where you’ll see a myriad of clubs being used off the tee. Last year’s winner Charl Schwartzel hit an iron off the tee leaving himself a 210 yard approach on his way to par. Bill Haas, who was in the lead at the time, hit a perfect 3 wood off the tee but short sided his approach leading to bogey and an eventual playoff loss. Copperhead is deceptively long. Four of the five par 3s are over 200 yards, all the par 5s are over 550 yards, and only one par 4 is under 420 yards. Add the fact that driver off the tee is not a good play on most holes and the course becomes a daunting task with positioning and long iron play being a key to success.
Off the tee golfers will be challenged with tight tree lined fairways, massive doglegs, thickish rough, elevation changes, and bunkers and water in play on some of the holes. The fairways are average in size but tend to get more narrow the farther you get from the tee box. Now because of this the average driving distance at Copperhead is one of the shortest on Tour due to the fact that precision and placement are more important than distance and driver is left in the bag for most golfers on the majority of holes. Since 2005 Copperhead is routinely in the bottom 6 in average driving distance on Tour. The greens are firm, and average in speed (11-12 on stimpmeter) unless you land the ball above the hole since most greens here are sloped from back to front. The greens are average in size when you take into account only square footage but will look much smaller to the Tour players because they will probably be hitting mid to long irons on their approach shots for the majority of the holes. There are also some very long, skinny putting surfaces which skews the average size of the greens. The par 3 4th and 14th come to mind as the greens that are very long but the landing area by the pin is usually very tight in width. As with most courses in Florida, the grass on the greens will be Bermudagrass.
Key Stats For The Course
***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P) and Birdie or Better % (BoB%) which are key stats every week.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG:T2G):
Copperhead is another difficult course, so if you have read my previous write ups, it should come as no shock that SG:T2G is my most important stat of the week. The trends on this course from the last eleven years confirms this for me. In the last eleven years 33/39 golfers that finished Top 3 or better have been inside the Top 85 in SG:T2G for that specific year and the majority of those 33 golfers were inside the Top 50 in SG:T2G for the year they finished Top 3 or better here.