A favorite stop on the Florida Swing is upon us this week, as the PGA Tour heads to Palm Harbor, Fla., and the Innisbrook Resort for the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank on the Copperhead Course.
Luke Donald is the defending champion, after winning in a playoff a year ago.
Before the tournament got started, we caught up with Innisbrook PGA Director of Golf Rodney Green to talk about the course, the diversity of champions and asked about things to do in the area.
PGA.com The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is usually one of the tougher tracks on the PGA Tour schedule. Sure, the winners have reached double-digits under par, but the scoring is never crazy low. What's the biggest factor in terms of scores not getting out of control low?
Green: Of the four par 5s on the course, only two of them are what I would consider reachable -- which is rare for most of these players. They normally light the par 5s up. I notice a lot of 3 woods and hybrids being played off some of the par 4s as well, which typically leaves a mid-iron shot to those holes. You really have to position the ball well off the tee to get at some of the tougher pin placements. I call the Copperhead "the ultimate test of fair." There’s nothing tricked up about it. Everything is right there in front of you, and if you hit good shots you get rewarded. However, if you hit bad shot, you get penalized.
PGA.com: The tournament has an international list of champions; among them defending champ Luke Donald (England), Vijay Singh (Fiji), K.J. Choi (South Korea) Retief Goosen (South Africa). Why do you think that is?
Green: Of the top 20 golfers in the world rankings, less than half are from the USA. This speaks volumes to how the game has globally evolved over the years. Our tournament just mirrors that fact. We see it in the makeup of our resort guest as well. To me, that's a good thing.
PGA.com: For people who might be in town for the tournament, what's one restaurant they can't miss and what would you recommend they order?
Green: I know you only asked for one, but we have three restaurants on property. The Turnberry Pub, Market Salamander Grill and Packards Steakhouse. My favorite is Packards, which is named after course designer Larry Packard (still living at Innisbrook at the age of 100), and you have to try the Kona Crusted Lamb!
PGA.com: For families visiting the area, can you fill us in on some activities they can enjoy?
Green: At the resort, there’s a lot to do for families. Our Loch Ness Pool complex serves as the center of entertainment and features a water slide, volleyball and houses our kids camp called Camp Nessie. We even offer Dive In Movies for the family. Of course, just a short ride away is the beautiful Caladesi State Park and its spectacular beach, while the historic, nearby town of Tarpon Springs is famed for its sponge docks. Both St. Petersburg and Tampa are easily reached in just over 30 minutes.
PGA.com: Last question for you, Rodney. What does your job mean to you?
Green: When you are working at a resort with over 900 acres, there many moving parts: rooms, food and beverage, recreation, spa and, of course, golf. My job is to make sure that golf works harmoniously with all the other areas to produce a superior guest experience. When it all comes together, it's very rewarding for me. Ultimately, you have to wear many hats in this role, and I enjoy them all.