Believe it or not, there was a time not long ago when the golf courses on the Florida Swing were a bit of a pushover for the world's top players. Birdies were an absolute must and strings of pars usually spelled a weekend off. That's not the case anymore. This week, the PGA Tour returns to another beast of a track - The Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., for the Transitions Championship. We caught up with PGA Director of Golf Rodney Green, who is happily hosting another world-class field.
PGA.com: Rodney, you're one of our absolute favorites to catch up with, so thanks for joining us again. First things first -- your defending champion, Jim Furyk. His win at Innisbrook last year was just the start of a dream season that ended with Furyk hoisting the FedExCup. I would imagine that champions like Furyk, as well as past winners K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh, among others, must make you quite proud of the course you represent. Can you talk a little about that?
Green: It's always exciting to have the top players in the world compete at our venue. I saw K.J. earlier today playing ping-pong in the player's locker room, and I'm sure if I go to the range Vijay will be doing what he's always doing… practicing! Who knew that the victory last year was going to jump start Jim Furyk the way it did? It will be interesting to see how this year's tournament unfolds. I like the fact that it's played three weeks before the Masters because guys are starting to really get geared up for the first major of the year.
PGA.com: Jim Furyk's winning score last year was 13-under 271. That was the lowest winning total at Innisbrook since K.J. Choi had the same mark in 2006. I know you lowered the rough last year because of the new groove rule. Was that the reason for the lower scores? And is the rough still down this year?
Green: I'm not certain if the weather had just as much to do with it as the rough. I've only been Director of Golf here for two years. My first year Retief shot 8 under and it was windy and cold the first three days.
The year prior to my arrival, Sean O'Hair won with 4 under and I'm told it was extremely windy that week as well.
Last year, the weather was mild and sunny with a few brief showers on Sunday morning and Jim Furyk was able to get it to double figures. It's supposed to be great weather all four days this week, let's see if there's any correlation. One thing is for sure - there won't be any 25 or 26 under here. The Copperhead isn't giving up that many birdies.
PGA.com: Can you tell us a little about the remarkable field you have this week, which includes the likes of world No. 1 Martin Kaymer?
Green: I am really looking forward to watching Martin Kaymer play the Copperhead. He and a host of other top players like Bubba Watson, Retief Goosen and, Vijay Singh will all be put to the test this week.
PGA.com: Recently you were featured in a story that ran right here on PGA.com . You're a humble guy and would probably never admit it, but you're an incredible inspiration to all aspiring PGA Professionals. With that in mind, along with the success you've earned, what's the single-most important piece of advice you could give to someone training to become a PGA Professional?
Green: I'm very fortunate to have a job that is also my passion. Over the years I've just kept plugging away knowing that if I worked hard and persevered that good things were going to happen. I'm also blessed to work for Sheila Johnson and Salamander Hospitality.
I'm learning and growing more each day. My advice would be to anyone wishing to pursue a career in the golf industry is not to be one dimensional. Learn a little bit about everything that's going on around you. It's extremely beneficial to be able to wear many hats in this industry these days. The more you know, the better your chances are for advancement.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Rodney. Who would be the three other players in your dream foursome and why?
Green: I'm sure most people would name all the top players in the world: Tiger, Martin, Phil, Vijay etc... but not me. I've got a few very close friends who live nearby, and when we can all get together and play, we have a ball. Nothing better than a little $10 dollar Nassau amongst friends. Besides I stand a much better chance of beating one of those guys then Tiger Woods.