Tampa Bay Championship Betting Preview

Luke Donald

Luke Donald (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

The third leg of the Florida swing heads to Innisbrook Resort and the Copperhead course this week for the Tampa Bay Championship. EverBank takes over from Transitions as the title sponsor, and even though the field isn’t as good as the Cadillac last week, many of the world’s best will be teeing it up.
 
2013 Tampa Bay Championship Fact Sheet

  • Course: Innisbrook – Copperhead Course
  • Location: Palm Harbor, Florida
  • Yardage: 7,340 yards, par 71
  • Defending Champion: Luke Donald
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:30 to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
  • Sunday –  1:00 to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)

Key Storyline This Week
 
There isn’t anything that immediately jumps out in terms of a storyline this week, but with only four weeks to go until the first major of the year, we’re basically starting the run-up to the Masters. Each player has a different philosophy when it comes to how much they play before a major, and most of the best players in the field this week are guys who have yet to pick up their first major championship, but should always be considered contenders based on their talent. This event has benefited in recent years from being played right after the Cadillac, and with the courses only being a few hours apart, many of the best players stick around despite the slightly lower than average purse. It’s a good field that should produce some entertaining golf over all four days.
 
Key Holes
 
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is a rarity in that in its par-71 layout, there are five par-3’s and a larger than usual course length at 7,340 yards. After playing through the Bear Trap and the Blue Monster in recent weeks, the players will deal with the Snake Pit, considered as one of the toughest finishing stretches in all of championship golf.
 
Par-4 16th (460 yards)
The Snake Pit starts with a very intimidating tee shot, as water guards the entire right side of the hole from the start of the fairway until it runs out. Most players will likely take less than driver to avoid the lake, leaving themselves with at least 170 yards into a green that’s well protected by bunkers on both sides. At 460 yards, it may not seem like too much of a challenge for these guys, but it’s been the number one handicap hole on the course in three of the last five years.
 
Par-3 17th (215 yards)
The distance is troubling enough for a lot of players, but there’s also pretty much no bailout spot on the 17th either. Trees line the entire hole, and bunkers surround both sides of the green, as well as behind it, not to mention the incredibly narrow entry point at the front. Most will happily take par and walk to the 18th tee.
 
Par-4 18th (445 yards)
The finishing hole at Copperhead is one of my favourites on the PGA Tour. It’s dead uphill, and players will need to find the fairway off the tee if they hope to find the green with their approach. If they hit the fairway, they’ll still have to negotiate the giant bunkers that surround the front and back of the green, which slopes severely from back to front.
 
Suggested Plays
 
Luke Donald (Best Odds 16-1 at Bet365)
If you’re only looking at the end result from last week with Donald, you’re not getting the full story. He finished at 1-over par, but he was +8 for the week on the difficult 18th alone. That won’t happen again this week, and even though you don’t see defending champions repeat very often, I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t finish near the top of the leaderboard at a place where he usually plays well.
 
Matt Kuchar (Best Odds 23-1 at Betfair)
Kuchar is probably the most consistent player in the world, and pretty much never has a tournament where he’s so bad that he’s out of contention.  You have to go back to last year’s PGA Championship in August at Kiawah to find a round higher than 74, and he’s been playing well this year with a win at the Match Play and two other top-10’s. In five events at Innisbrook, he’s been inside the top-20 four times.
 
Jim Furyk (Best Odds 30-1 at BetVictor)
The few of you who actually read this blog know that I’m not a huge Furyk supporter, but his track record here is too good to ignore. In the last three years, he has won the event once, finished tied for 13th, and was in the playoff last year that Luke Donald ended up winning. Of course, it was one of the four 54-hole leads that Furyk ended up blowing last year, but he should be there at the end.
 
Louis Oosthuizen (Best Odds 30-1 at BETDAQ)
There are certain players that I will always tip once they get past 20-1, and Oosthuizen is one of those guys. Since winning in January, he hasn’t been playing great, but he’s too good of a player to pass up at 30-1. His lone appearance at Innisbrook last year got him a tie for 20th, and it would have been better if not for an opening round 73, which was his first time ever playing the course. You don’t often get a chance to bet one of the best players in the world at this kind of number, so take advantage.
 
Retief Goosen (Best Odds 89-1 at Betfair)
Goosen’s prior record at Innisbrook speaks for itself, with two wins, a T-5 and two other top-20’s. He’s rounding back into form a little bit too after having back surgery in the offseason. His last appearance at the Honda a few weeks ago was ruined by a final round 80, but he still hits tons of fairways and he’s still putting really well. His T-9 at Pebble a few weeks ago tells me that the game is still there, and with his success at Innisbrook, 89-1 is a steal.

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