In 2011, the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla., proved to be a coming out party for two of the PGA Tour's brightest young stars. Gary Woodland was victorious, while Webb Simpson finished second, paving the way for an outstanding season.
As usual, a strong field is assembled at the Copperhead Course, which includes four players currently in the top-10 of the world ranking and 17 past major champions.
We spoke to Innisbrook Resort PGA Director of Golf Rodney Green to get a feel for what things are like in Palm Harbor this week.
PGA.com: Thanks for joining us again this year, Rodney. You're one of our favorite people to talk to at PGA.com. I guess I'd like to start off with your defending champ Gary Woodland. His victory at the Transitions Championship last year truly proved to be his coming out party on Tour. The same can be said for the runner up, Webb Simpson. What does it mean to you to have seen them play so well after what they accomplished at Innisbrook?
Green: I had a chance to spend a little time with Gary after the tournament last year and he was a really down to earth, humble guy. What happened with Gary and Webb last year at Transitions seemed to serve as a confidence builder for them to tap into as the year progressed. At that level sometimes that's all you need -- a little confidence to get you going, and winning sure is one way to get it.
PGA.com: What do you most look forward during tournament week? I'm sure it's far different than the other 51 weeks per year at Innisbrook.
Green: One would think I would look forward to seeing all the great players here competing. And I do. But I really enjoy all the behind-the-scenes stuff that's involved with hosting a PGA Tour event. Logistics, hospitality, sponsors, fans, etc. That's the real nuts and bolts of having a successful event. The players are the easy part.
PGA.com: After the par-5 14th hole at the Copperhead Course, there's really no let up coming in. Nos. 15 and 17 are two 200-yard+ par 3s, while Nos. 16 and 18 are long par 4s. How important is it for a player to stay completely focused on that closing stretch?
Green: You know, 200+ yard par 3s aren't very much of a challenge to these guys anymore. They can hit 6- and 7-irons 200 yards. But No. 16, that hole can easily make or break the tournament. We've seen the tournament won or lost on that hole. No. 18 is a pretty straight forward par 4. A huge undulating green calls for a precision approach shot or you could easily walk off the hole with a 3-putt. I can assure you if you can play the last three holes in even par or better you will not give up any ground to the field.
PGA.com: I realize this is only your third year as Director of Golf at Innisbrook, but what is your most memorable moment there so far?
Green: Actually there have been many memorable experiences over the past few years. We don't have enough room to list them all. Just recently our company, Salamander Hospitality, formed the Grand Golf Resorts of Florida which features Innisbrook Resort, Reunion Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach in Palm Coast. The collection has a new website called www.GrandGolfResorts.com. It's a very exciting time for us and we're looking forward to great things in the future. Besides, how could I give up a chance for a free plug!
PGA.com: Ha! I guess I teed that one up for you. Final thing, Rodney. Once again, you have another stellar field assembled. Can you tell us a little about it?
Green: This should be a very exciting weekend of golf.
The field is outstanding. Three players are in the top 10 in FedExCup standings. Three players are in the top 10 in earnings, and four players are top 10 in the world ranking. Seventeen past major winners are here and a host of the top international players round out the field.
Justin Rose is fresh off a victory at the Cadillac and George McNeill just won in Puerto Rico. The weather is scheduled to be great. Let the fun begin!