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Preview: Transitions Championship

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By Michael Williams

GolfWRX Staff Writer

While several of the games marquee names will be taking a breather, there will be plenty of stars ready to step into the spotlight at the Transitions Championship in Tampa, Fla. The venue for this week’s event, the 7,340-yard, par-71 Copperhead course, is best known for “The Snake Pit”, generally regarded as one of the most challenging finishing three holes on Tour. In 2011, the holes collectively played almost a full half stroke over par, making it the fifth toughest finish on the PGA Tour (excluding majors).

“I think it’s as good a finish as we have on the PGA Tour,” said defending champion Gary Woodland. “You have to get the holes before you get to 16 if you want to shoot a good score. If you have to make three pars coming in, you have your work cut out for you.

“There is not a birdie hole the last three holes. If you’re two back and have signed your scorecard and the leaders are still out there, you’re definitely hanging around to see what happens.” Long-hitters such as Woodland will have an advantage at Copperhead, whose pine trees and elevation changes evoke more Carolina than coastal Florida.

Joining Woodland will be defending Masters champion Carl Schwartzel, the only defending major champion in the field. There is a slew of past major champions in the field as well, including Angel Cabrera, Chad Campbell, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harington, Justin Leonard, Geoff Ogilvy, Louis Oosthhuizen, Vijay Singh and David Toms.

Former Masters champion, Trevor Immelman, was set to become another major champion in the field, but was forced to withdraw Thursday morning because of a wrist injury. Immelman underwent wrist surgery at the end of 2009. This year, Immelman has missed three cuts in five. His best finish came when he tied for 12th at the Waste Management Open. He has been replaced in the field by Brian Harmon.

Whether you are looking for a unique perspective on the Copperhead course and the competition over the years or you’re just trying to win your office golf pool, there’s no better person than Innisbrook Director of Golf Rodney Green, who is in charge of all golf operations at the sprawling resort.

“It’s not going to be a birdie-fest out there,” remarked Green. “The most important thing out here is to hit fairways and greens, and the greens are not easy to hit. The guys who are at the top of the leaderboard are typically great iron players with a good overall game “

From his privileged position, Green has the opportunity to chat with the pros in the field on the range and during practice rounds. One of the more intriguing stories in the field is Hank Kuehne, the former wonderboy who is now working his back on the Tour.

“[Kuehne] is a friend from Orlando, and it really is great to see him back competing.”

Green also had a chance to talk to crowd favorite John Daly.

“John was saying how hitting 13 or so greens will be a very good day and par will be a good score,” said Green.  Noting the quality of the field, Green remarked, “Justin Rose has always played well here and he is obviously hot right now. Everyone is looking forward to watching the group with Rose, Luke Donald and K.J. Choi. There’s also obviously a lot of interest in the pairing of Woodard, Webb Simpson and Scott Stallings, who were the top three finishers in last year’s event.”

Also in the field is Justin Rose, who is fresh off a come-from-behind win at last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Rose is looking to become the Tour’s first back-to-back winners since Tiger Woods in 2009.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy will be taking a breather in advance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, which will be his final preparation before the Masters. Also sitting out this week is Woods, who has not played in the tournament since very early in his career. Woods, who withdrew from last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship due to a strained Achilles, notified the world via Twitter that the injury was deemed to be slight and would not affect his participation at Bay Hill or Augusta. Phil Mickelson will also be taking a path to Augusta that includes Bay Hill but not Innisbrook.

The Transitions Championship airs on The Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday, with weekend coverage moving to NBC. Check local listings for air times.

Notes:

  • One of the more interesting opening day pairings to watch will be that of John Daly, Chris DiMarco and Pat Perez. DiMarco is one of the most fiery competitors on the Tour, while Pat Perez is known equally for his brilliant ball-striking and his volcanic outbursts of temper when that ball-striking fails him. There is not room on this website to chronicle the tales of Daly.
  • The trend has been for Sunday heroics in 2012 and this week should be no different. Over the last eight PGA Tour stroke-play events, there have been nine different players with a share of the 54-hole lead (Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were tied entering the final round at Riviera). Of those, two went on to win — McIlroy and George McNeill, who won in Puerto Rico on Sunday.
  • The Transitions will be one of a number of Tour events seeking name sponsorship in 2013. The local eyewear manufacturer that is the current sponsor has chosen not to renew after this year’s event.
  • The Innisbook Resort property is a part of Salamander Resorts, which is owned by BET founder Sheila Johnson

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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Report: 2020 Open Championship set to be cancelled; R&A releases statement in response: “continuing to work through options”

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This year’s Open Championship will be cancelled outright by the R&A due to the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from Golf Digest.

Per the report, an unnamed source has divulged to the publication that the championship will next take place in 2021 with St. Andrews hosting the event. Royal St. Georges, due to host the 2020 Open Championship, would instead host the 2024 edition.

According to Golf Digest’s source, insurance has played a pivotal role in the decision making. As with Wimbledon, the Open Championship has an insurance policy that protects itself against a global pandemic if the event is cancelled by a specific date.

On Wednesday, the R&A officially announced that the 41st Curtis Cup would be played in 2021 while the organization also moved the British Amateur and British Women’s Amateur from June to August.

Though unconfirmed, this would mark the first major championship of 2020 to be cancelled outright, with the Masters and PGA Championship having been officially postponed.

*UPDATE*

On Thursday morning, in light of the speculation surrounding this year’s Open Championship, Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, released a statement where he said the R&A are “continuing to work through our options for The Open this year.”

“We are continuing to work through our options for The Open this year, including postponement. Due to a range of external factors, that process is taking some time to resolve. We are well aware of the importance of being able to give clear guidance to fans, players and everyone involved and are working to resolve this as soon as we can. We will give a further update as soon as we are in a position to do so and thank everyone for their support and understanding in this challenging situation.”

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Report: Woods-Mickelson Part 2 likely to happen in May and will feature two other sporting superstars

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Earlier this week, Phil Mickelson teased “The Match” Part 2 on his social media, and according to a report from CNBC the exhibition, though unconfirmed, is likely to take place in May and will include both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

On Monday evening, golf journalist Robert Lusetich stated that the potential “The Match” Part 2 would likely involve NFL legends, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a two on two contest.

Now per CNBC’s report, who claim that “a person familiar with the negotiations” confirmed the story to them, the contest is organized by AT&T’s WarnerMedia and the PGA Tour, and would likely take place in May with the proceeds going towards coronavirus relief charities.

The report also claims the event would likely not be a pay-per-view contest, with plans also in place to feature big names throughout the PGA, NFL, and National Basketball Association.

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Schedule postponements and cancellations on the PGA Tour, European Tour plus the four majors: What we know so far

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With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the PGA Tour and European Tour have taken steps to cancel or postpone several events. Action has also been taken on some of golf’s major championships, and here we’ll summarize what decisions have been made so far altering the 2020 calendar.

The Majors

Both The Masters (April 9-12) and PGA Championship (May 14-17) have been officially postponed with hopes of rescheduling both events for later in the year. According to the NY Post, the US Open is also set to be postponed and rescheduled for “later in the summer”, though as of Tuesday, March 31 the USGA has made no formal announcement confirming this news.

The R&A has of yet made no announcement on this year’s Open Championship which is due to take place from 16-19 of July.

  • April 9-12: The Masters – Postponed
  • May 14-17: PGA Championship – Postponed
  • June 18-21: US Open – NY Post reporting postponed; not yet confirmed by USGA
  • July 16-19: Open Championship – On Schedule

PGA Tour

Since cancelling the Players Championship mid-event, the PGA Tour decided to cancel several subsequent tournaments. As of now, the earliest return date for the PGA Tour is May 21 at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship which is played the same week as the WGC-Match Play was postponed with plans to reschedule the event.

  • March 12-15: The Players Championship – Cancelled
  • March 19-22: Valspar Championship – Cancelled
  • April 16-19: RBC Heritage – Cancelled
  • April 23-26: Zurich Classic of New Orleans – Cancelled
  • April 30-May 3: Wells Fargo Championship – Cancelled
  • May 7-10: AT&T Byron Nelson – Cancelled

European Tour

Along with the cancelled WGC-Match Play and confirmed postponed major championships, the European Tour has postponed a further seven events. Unlike the PGA Tour, the European Tour has chosen to postpone almost every upcoming event for the time being instead of cancelling. The GolfSixes Cascais is the only confirmed cancellation as of now.

On Monday, the Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open became the latest tournament to be postponed meaning the earliest possible return date for action on the European Tour is now June 4 at the Trophee Hassan II.

  • March 12-15: Magical Kenya Open – Postponed
  • March 19-22: Hero Indian Open – Postponed
  • April 16-19: Maybank Championship – Postponed
  • April 23-26: Volvo China Open – Postponed
  • April 30-May 3: Andalucia Masters – Postponed
  • May 9-10: GolfSixes Cascais – Cancelled
  • May 21-24: Made in Denmark – Postponed
  • May 28-31: Irish Open – Postponed
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