tampabay.com

Great course draws strong field

The Cooperhead's tough setup demands solid play, and pros appreciate that.

By BOB HARIG
Published January 27, 2005


This is the third year for the Chrysler Championship, the last full-field event of the 2005 PGA Tour schedule and a popular stop for players.

Last year Vijay Singh became the second player in more than 50 years to win nine times in a single season when he won at the Westin Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead course.

He is expected to defend his title Oct. 27-30, when a healthy number of the top 20 players in the world are likely to be in attendance.

The tournament also helps determine the top 30 money winners who advance to the Tour Championship, as well as the top 125 on the final money list, who have exempt status on tour the following season.

The area's association with the PGA Tour dates to the 1930s, when the St. Petersburg Open was played at various courses, including Lakewood Country Club (now St. Petersburg Country Club) and Pasadena Country Club. That tournament ceased in 1964.

In the late '70s, the JCPenney Classic, a mixed-team tournament of PGA Tour and LPGA pros, moved to Bardmoor Country Club in Largo. After moving to Innisbrook in 1990, it was a fixture until 1999, when JCPenney dropped its sponsorship.

Tournament organizers pursued a regular PGA Tour stop.

For three years it was known as the Tampa Bay Classic (it was canceled in 2001 due to the Sept.11 terrorist attacks) and played opposite a more prestigious PGA Tour event. In 2003 the first Chrysler Championship was played, and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen won the title.

Other than the date, perhaps the tournament's best selling point is the course.

"I think it's probably the best course we play in Florida," PGA Tour veteran Fred Funk said. "It's so traditional. Rolling hills and a tree line. But it has that thick Florida Bermuda rough. It's a golf course that rewards good play, the kind of golf course guys like to go to. If you're playing well you're rewarded, and if not you're usually down the road."

CHRYSLER CHAMPIONSHIP

WHAT: 72-hole PGA Tour event.

WHERE: Westin Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor

COURSE: Copperhead, par 71, 7,340 yards

PURSE: $5.3-million, $954,000 winner.

FIELD: 132 players, with a cut to the top 70 and ties after 36 holes.

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Vijay Singh.

LAST YEAR: Singh became the first player in PGA Tour history to surpass $10-million in single-season earnings with his ninth victory of 2004. He closed with 6-under-par 65 to win by five shots and match Tiger Woods (2000) for the most victories in a season since 1950.

TV: 4-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday, USA; 3-6 p.m. Saturday, USA; 2-5 p.m Sunday, Ch. 28.

TICKETS: $85 for a weekly clubhouse badge. Daily tickets are $15 for the practice rounds, $30 for the first and second rounds and $35 for the third and fourth rounds. Various ticket packages, including parking, are available. Prices are subject to change. For information call 727-942-5566 or visit www.chryslerchampionship.com