On the Tee: Transitions Championship

by | CBSSports.com Senior Golf Columnist
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Players like Innisbrook, partly because it doesn't really look like Florida. (Getty Images)  
Players like Innisbrook, partly because it doesn't really look like Florida. (Getty Images)  

Everything you need to know about the Transitions Championship:

Nuts and bolts

Hole by hole | Past champions | Expert Picks

Defending the throne

Looking back, the Transitions Championship was exactly that for the three main Sunday protagonists.

A transition point to the next level of PGA Tour prowess.

Power-hitting Gary Woodland held on to win with a 4-under 67, holing putts from everywhere, to edge Webb Simpson and rookie Scott Stallings.

If the names of the second pair sound familiar, it's because, like Woodland did outside Tampa, they both recorded their maiden PGA Tour wins in 2011, too. In fact, Simpson won twice and led the money list until the season's final week, while Stallings won the Greenbrier event.

The three 20-something players had seven years of PGA Tour experience combined, and exactly no victories, entering 2011.

Woodland began the final round two shots behind Justin Rose, who won last weekend at Doral, and one stroke behind Simpson and Brendon De Jonge.

After a trademark monster drive at the 18th, Woodland bombed a wedge from 150 yards to the back of the green. After rolling a 65-foot putt 10 feet past, he made the par effort and Simpson bogeyed the hole playing behind him to lose by a shot.

Venue and you

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort finished a rather surprising ninth in a player poll of top tour venues, since Florida tracks routinely are savaged for being boring. With hardwood trees and rolling terrain, it’s nothing like the South Florida tour venues. It’s semi-private, but non-resort guests can currently play a weekday round for $200 plus tax. Guests pay $180.

Track and field

Thanks mostly to the high regarded of the Innisbrook Resort's host course, the event has picked up some steam over the years, despite a tough date on the calendar between Doral and Bay Hill. This year, the field includes six players ranked in the world top 15, an impressive increase of three from last year, and 22 from the top 50, up from 18 last year.

Three whacks from short range

 As the newest event in the mix, Tampa has sometimes been the fourth wheel on the month-long Florida Swing, but with top-10 players Luke Donald, Webb Simpson, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel on hand, it is expected to feature more firepower than the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week. Though nobody will likely notice, because Palmer will have Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, if his problematic left leg allows him to play. When you land Lefty and Woody, nothing else matters.

 Defending champion Gary Woodland changed swing coaches a few weeks back and his play has been ragged to say the least, with only one round in the 60s all year. But he might have turned the corner last week at Doral, or at least come to the bend in the road. Woodland posted four rounds at par or better to finish T29, easily his best performance of the season given the depth of the field.

 Hanging over the event his week is the question of what happens next for the Tampa-area event, which has endured several logistics issues over the years. The deal with title sponsor Transitions expires this week, which means the 2013 tournament will have its fifth different title sponsor in 12 years -- if one is found at all. Nearby Disney also needs a sponsor for next year and beyond. In addition to the revolving sponsorship door, the Tampa event was cancelled completely after the 9-11 attacks of 2001. A little over a year ago, Tampa tournament officials fired the event's popular tournament director, Gerald Goodman, a move that so shocked the folks at the PGA Tour that they hired him and put him charge of the Accenture Match Play Championship, which is run by the tour. Uncertain times, indeed.

Odds and evens

Odds on winning, via Golfodds.com and the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino:

Luke Donald 10/1 Charl Schwartzel 15/1; Justin Rose 15/1; Webb Simpson 20/1; Matt Kuchar 20/1; Nick Watney 20/1; Jason Day 30/1; Sergio Garcia 30/1; Bo Van Pelt 30/1; John Senden 30/1; Martin Laird 30/1

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