PALM HARBOR — Veterans and weather took their toll at Innisbrook on Thursday. Old-timers Bart Bryant, Jeff Maggert, Kenny Perry and Stewart Cink tamed the normally difficult Copperhead Course in the morning. And a long line of thunderstorms halted play for most of the afternoon.
The first round of the PODS Championship was suspended at 2:10 p.m. with 72 players on the course. Golf resumed 21/2 hours later, but none of the players was able to finish. Play was scheduled to resume at 7:30 this morning. The second round was scheduled to start at 8:45.
It was the first time weather has halted play on the PGA Tour this year. Rain is in the forecast today.
Before the storms, players found conditions rather tame on the 7,340-yard, par-71 course. Bryant shot the low round of the day, 6-under 65 that included four birdies on the back nine. Maggert, Perry and Cink were a shot back. Another longtime tour player, Lee Janzen, was 5 under through 15 holes of his afternoon round. Overall, 33 of the 72 players who finished broke par, including 2005 champion Carl Pettersson (67), Fred Couples (69) and 2003 champion Retief Goosen (70).
Bryant, 45, a 17-year PGA Tour grinder, has made four of five cuts this season, with his best finish a tie for 16th at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January. He has played in Palm Harbor seven times, with his best finish a tie for 12th last year.
"I played extremely well," he said. "In the middle of the round I had a few tap-in birdies, and I hit a couple of like 10- or 12-footers. So before I knew it I was 4 under. And I just happened to play those last three holes (on the back nine) in 2 under, which is a real bonus on this course."
Defending champion Mark Calcavecchia and Sunday's Honda Classic winner, Ernie Els, did not finish. Calcavecchia was 1 under through 13 and Els was at par through 11. Stuart Appleby was also in the hunt at 4 under through 11.
Copperhead's reputation as a course that favors the accurate player instead of the long hitter held true Thursday morning.
"It's just not a get-up-there, grip-it-and-rip-it, hit-it-straight, air-it-out type of golf course," Bryant said. "That bodes well for some of us older guys that didn't learn to hit it long in the first place."
Maggert, 44, who shot his best round of 2008, said the older players have a chance against the young guns at Innisbrook.
"It's a course-management course and not one you can overpower," he said. "We have a lot of young players who hit the ball miles and miles and you get them on a course like this where they can't play the game like they're used to. I'd like to hit it as long as they can, but sometimes it's an advantage to be in the fairway most of the time."
Cink, 34, a 14-year tour veteran, was one of those players. He started on the back nine and eagled the par-5 14th. He had only one bogey (on the par-4 sixth hole).
"It could've been a better round," Cink said. "I left a lot of birdie putts out there."
Perhaps the most surprising name near the top was Janzen. The Florida Southern grad hasn't won since the 1998 U.S. Open and missed two of three 2008 cuts.
"I shoot good scores on Mondays and Tuesdays and on weeks off," said Janzen, 43, who is playing on a sponsor's exemption. "It's just a matter of feeling the same way when you get in a tournament. I had a good week of practice, and I felt good coming over here."
Providing the weather holds, today will be a full day of golf. Play will go until dark again and the weekend cut won't be made until Saturday morning. When the final two rounds begin, Perry, 47, predicts the scores will go down.
"The weather is going to change drastically," he said. "This golf course is really going to wake up on the weekend."
Rodney Page can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8810.