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‘Dawgs on Tour: Florida Swing Comes to an End

PGA: Valspar Championship-ProAM Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament: The Valspar Championship, March 21-24, 2019

Course: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), 7,340 yards, par 71. (just northwest of Tampa, FL)

Purse: $6,700,000 (Almost a full $4 Million less than last week’s purse)

Defending Champion: Paul Casey. The Englishman came out of the pack hot on Sunday’s final round, and posted an early score. He held off various charges, including that of Patrick Reed and no less than Tiger Woods. Tiger had a chance to tie with a birdie on 18, but settled for 2nd place. Casey captured his 2nd PGA Tour win, and his first in 9 years (he has been more successful on the European Tour, and is certainly an accomplished player).

Fun Fact: The Snake Pit. The last 3 holes are a pretty tough stretch, and staying with the theme of the “Copperhead” Course name, they slapped a moniker and a statue on the finishing holes.

Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC). The coverage will be on NBC the next few weeks while CBS tries to recoup their billion dollar paycheck to the NCAA for covering March Madness.

Former ‘Dawgs in the Field (Nine): Brian Harman, Harris English, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner, Hudson Swafford, Joey Garber, and Sepp Straka.

After peaking with The Players Championship last week and Rory McIlroy’s return to the winner’s circle, the Tour heads south on I-95 before veering right on I-4 West and heading to Tampa. This will conclude the “Florida Swing”, the stretch of early-season tournaments held in Florida until the rest of the country warms up a bit.

The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook has been toughened considerably from it’s inception. It now boasts a high scoring average, and has received tons of acclaim from players as a very good stop on Tour. And if you watch any of the TV coverage, you might say to yourself... “Self, where are the palm trees? Isn’t this Florida?”

Though the course is only a mile or so inland from the Gulf of Mexico, the geography is more more North Carolina sandhills than South Florida resort. Some rolling elevation, overseeded perennial rye grass, thick stands of pine trees... none of this is like the other courses in the Florida rotation. But it can still have trade winds and get gusty, especially in early spring. It isn’t especially long, but at just a few feet above sea level it plays long enough.

We have almost a full complement of former Bulldogs competing. Keith Mitchell being the notable exception. But Mitchell has played for about 5 straight weeks, including his first Tour win in Palm Beach 3 weeks ago, so he’s taking a week off. Otherwise, most of these guys played last week, with all making the cut other than English and Henley. Plus we get the return of Tour rookies Joey Garber and Sepp Straka as they try to gain FedEx Cup points for the season-ending playoffs.

You know who doesn’t need a playoff? The current University of Georgia Men’s Golf Team. The current crop of undergrads captured first place in the Linger Longer Invitational held at Lake Oconee (The Landings). This is the second win this season for the Bulldogs, having tied for first in Puerto Rico last month.

Junior Spencer Ralston played well the entire week and snagged low medalist honors by 3 strokes over fellow junior Trevor Phillips. Ralston and Phillips both fired a final round 66, and that gave UGA an 11 under par score for the day, and the win by 6 strokes.

Let me know in the comments if you have questions about the tourney or our ‘Dawgs. And as always...