Tampa betting guide
Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for this week's Tampa Bay Championship in Florida
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: March 13, 2013 3:59pm
Tampa Bay Preview
First things first, this isn't a new tournament on the PGA Tour schedule; it's a change of sponsor.
The tournament is relatively young however and was originally played as the Tampa Bay Classic in 2000.
It's title changed to the Chrysler Championship in 2003 and from the inaugural event in 2000 to 2006 it was played in the Fall (autumn).
Since 2007, it's enjoyed a March slot on the PGA Tour although for the first three years it was played as the PODS Championship.
Now, after four years of being the Transitions Championship, it changes name yet again. Got all that?!
The one constant - and the main thing for those having a bet - is that the venue has stayed the same so there is plenty of reliable course form.
As usual Sky will have coverage for all four days.
The tree-lined fairways at The Copperhead Course
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor is a 7,340-yard par 71, opening with a double dog-leg par five. Unusually for a par 71 it has the usual compliment of four par fives but the par drops one due to five par threes. It's not your typical flat Florida resort course as there are lots of changes of elevation and the tee-shots are often tree-lined. Some have said it's more typical of a course you'd find in the Carolinas.
The forecast is excellent with plenty of sunshine and temperatures hitting the mid-70s by Sunday. Wind can be a factor here and it might blow a little on the opening day but the prediction is that it will die down as the tournament progresses.
Last year - Luke Donald
Luke Donald celebrates victory in 2012
The Englishman won a four-man play-off to regain his status as world number one after Rory McIlroy had taken it a couple of weeks earlier. Robert Garrigus, Jim Furyk and Bae Sang-Moon were the players edged out by Donald after the quartet had finished the fourth round on 13-under. At the first extra hole, Donald hit a superb seven iron from rough and holed the putt to secure his fifth PGA Tour title and third in Florida.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Luke Donald (14/1): Donald led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting and ranked sixth in Scrambling when he won this event last year so it was very much a victory carved out of his well-known short-game prowess. Like last year, this will be Luke's fourth start of the campaign although he came into this event in 2012 on the back of a tied sixth in the Cadillac (last week he was only tied 43rd there). As well as his victory in 2012, Luke was also sixth on his previous visit to Innisbrook so this is yet another Florida track where he has some excellent form. Of the venue he says: "I've always enjoyed this golf course. I think it's a good golf course for me. You really have to have good course management around here. A lot of placing of the tee shot rather than just standing up and hitting away."
2013 form: 43-L32-16
Course form: 1-6-58-22
Florida form: 43-6-1-6
World ranking: 3
Sergio Garcia (14/1): Sergio displayed his usual ball-striking excellence last week (he was second in Greens In Regulation) and that helped him to a tie for third place, although he was never in with a chance of catching Tiger. Also second in Qatar on his 2013 debut, he's started the season brightly and last week's good show suggests he's over the shoulder problem which hampered him in Dubai. He's made the top 20 here for each of the last two years and said in 2011: "I have always liked this course. I think it's a great tournament, a very, very good, challenging golf course."
2013 form: 3-L32-13-17-2
Course form: 16-15-41-59
Florida form: 3-56-33-16
World ranking: 17
Adam Scott (15/1): As it's Cheltenham week, it's convenient to explain Scott's tied third place in last week's Cadillac Championship in horse racing terms: Slow out of the gate, ran on strongly, nearest finish. Stats-wise, Scott was particularly impressive (he ranked 1st in the All-Around category) and clearly he'll be high in confidence after that closing eight-under 64. This is his first start here since 2010 when he was 28th and that remains his best knock at Innisbrook in four visits. His best round was a day two 66 in 2010.
2013 form: 3-L64-10
Course form: 28-MC-MC-35
Florida form: 3-15-13-MC
World ranking: 7
Webb Simpson (18/1): Perhaps because it's more like the Carolina courses he grew up on, Simpson has a great record here with a runners-up finish in 2011, a 10th last year and a 13th in 2010. He also revealed last year: "I won a junior tournament here when I was 15, so I've always felt good on the golf course. It's like a longer, harder Hilton Head and I love that golf course; tree-lined fairways. I feel great out there." The US Open champion has played some decent golf this year (sixth Riviera, quarter-finals of World Match Play) without quite catching fire but this could be the place where it all clicks.
2013 form: 20-L8-6-26-MC-20-11
Course form: 10-2-13-MC
Florida form: 20-MC-36-10
World ranking: 19
Webb Simpson: Former runner-up here
Matt Kuchar (20/1): Kuchar has posted four top 20s in five visits to Innisbrook, with a couple of top 10s included in that fine run. He closed with a 65 to finish 10th last year while he boasts one of the best stroke averages here. He's already banked a big prize in 2013 after landing the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona while he also took fifth place in the Sony Open. There are few more consistent players in Florida than Kuchar; he's finished in the top 20 in 9 of his last 11 starts in the Sunshine State and that includes a victory in last year's prestigious Players Championship at Sawgrass.
2013 form: 35-1-38-16-5-9
Course form: 10-12-MC-20
Florida form: 35-1-10-8
World ranking: 9
Jason Dufner (22/1): The king of the pre-shot waggle has made a slow start to his US campaign but finally found some form with a decent 12th place finish in the WGC-Cadillac Championship last week where he opened with three successive 69s. He was fourth for Greens In Regulation there although his putter was cold. The Ryder Cup star hasn't finished worse than 28th in his last four starts here, with his average round during that spell coming in at an impressive 69.88. Last year he was the halfway leader here after a pair of 66s but slipped from third after round three to 10th after a closing 71.
2013 form: 12-51-L64-MC-9-9-18
Course form: 10-28-28-17
Florida form: 12-51-68-15
World ranking: 18
Louis Oosthuizen (28/1): The South African was in sensational form for the last few months of 2012 and carried that over to 2013 with a victory at the Volvo Golf Champions in January. However, he's gone rather flat since and last week's 33rd in the Cadillac was his best finish in three subsequent strokeplay starts. He made his debut in this event last year, opening with a patchy 73 before shooting three closing 68s to take a tie for 20th. Hasn't managed anything better than tied 18th in Florida (12 events over a five-year period) although living there now will surely help him improve on that.
2013 form: 33-MC-17-34-1
Course form: 20
Florida form: 33-MC-MC-20
World ranking: 6
Nick Watney (28/1): Watney's cold putter again hampered him at the Cadillac last week where he was 60th of the 65-man field in Putting Average. On the season-long stats he's now 149th in Strokes Gained-Putting, a huge contrast to his fourth place in Greens In Reg. Watney is a regular visitor to this tournament and hasn't missed a cut in seven starts at Innisbrook. The highlight was a fourth place in 2010 when he closed 65-67.
2013 form: 49-L32-MC-43-4-13
Course form: 51-13-4-12
Florida form: 49-56-59-51
World ranking: 23
Best of the rest
Jim Furyk (28/1): After his difficult 2012 when he suffered gut-wrenching losses at the US Open and Ryder Cup (both as an individual and member of the US team), Furyk will be hoping the new year will bring better fortunes. It hasn't really happened so far (his best is a 13th at Riviera) but this strategic course, which rewards finding fairways to set up controlled approaches, is right up his street. He won here in 2010, was 13th in 2011 and lost out in a play-off last year.
Jim Furyk: Great recent record on this track
Jason Day (33/1): This will be the Aussie's sixth straight start at Innisbrook and he posted a best of tied 20th last year. His last six rounds here read 65-76-69-72-67-69 so he clearly knows how to play it now after some early struggles. Five starts on the PGA Tour this year have brought three top 10s - 9th Torrey Pines, 6th Pebble Beach and 3rd Match Play - so he's starting to look like the player who was touted to be a superstar after finishing runner-up in both the 2011 Masters and US Open.
Scott Piercy (35/1): The American finished like a train here last year, a closing nine-under 62 (in admittedly softer conditions than normal) elevating him to fifth place and just one shot out of a play-off. Piercy was third in Phoenix last month and also a decent tied 25th in the Cadillac and he seems to be rolling it nicely with the putter. He's posted a victory in each of the last two seasons so he knows how to get it done.
Luke Guthrie (50/1): After winning back-to-back events on the Web.com Tour in September (on just his sixth and seventh starts), Guthrie is clearly something special. And he's already settled in impressively on the PGA Tour with nine finishes of 27th or better in 12 events. They include a fifth in the John Deere and a third in the Honda Classic a couple of weeks ago so he's already rewarding each-way backers.
Luke Guthrie: Already comfortable at this level
Erik Compton (150/1): He's still known as the guy who's had two heart transplants and perhaps always will be but Compton has some game too. Good enough to play on the 2001 Walker and Palmer Cup teams, his career understandably stalled due to all his health problems but so far in 2013 he's finished 15th at Torrey Pines and a career-best fourth in the Honda Classic. He was born and raised in the Sunshine State so maybe he can excel on the Florida Swing again.
Americans have won all 11 PGA Tour events this season and Webb Simpson could be the next cab off the rank.
The current US Open champion has got a great record here and has shown enough early-season form to suggest he's ready to win again.
Jim Furyk, the 2010 winner here, was sixth in Strokes Gained-Putting last week and sixth in Greens In Reg at Riviera so if he can put it together he'll be a big challenger here again.
He loves this place and it's encouraging to him that in its brief 13-year existence, the tournament has already had a pair of two-time winners (Retief Goosen and KJ Choi).
Russell Henley has already won this year so there's no reason why Luke Guthrie - one of his fellow 2012 Web.com grads - can't do so too.
Guthrie has already banked two top five finishes at this level and the last of those - a third - came in Florida a fortnight ago so he's hot.
Erik Compton is attractively priced for someone who cracked the top four against a better field than this at The Honda so is worth an each-way punt too.
Erik Compton: Fourth on last start in Florida
2pts e.w. Webb Simpson at 18/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Jim Furyk at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Luke Guthrie at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
0.5pts e.w. Erik Compton at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)