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Highs and lows of PGA Tour's Transitions Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor

Retief Goosen tips his hat to the gallery after winning the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship on Sunday at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Retief Goosen tips his hat to the gallery after winning the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship on Sunday at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor.

There was no rain. There was an interesting leaderboard. There were large galleries. There was even Erik Estrada. Last week's PGA Tour Transitions Championship — the first of at least four that Transitions Optical, a Pinellas Park eyewear company, will sponsor at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor — went off without many hitches. Though an exact figure has not been released, officials estimated through parking and ticket sales that it was the best-attended tournament in its nine years as a PGA event. One disappointment was that only 138 of the 156 amateur spots in the Wednesday pro-am were filled. Tournaments count on the pro-am to raise between $500,000 and $600,000 for expenses and charities.

"We had one company drop out late that usually buys 40 amateur spots,'' tournament director Gerald Goodman said. "I think all tournaments this year are having a hard time with the pro-ams.''

Goodman said it was a good year for attendance.

"We don't have figures yet, but we're saying it was our best-attended tournament,'' he said. "I had some rules officials tell me during the last five holes on Sunday, the roar from the crowd through the pine trees made it sound like Augusta.''

It's not quite the Masters, but Innis­brook's Copperhead course had its moments.

The five best

1. Retief Goosen's 18th hole two-putt: He needed a two-putt par to win but sent his 20-footer for birdie 5 feet past the hole. The par putt barely fell in the left side of the cup as the gallery gasped, then applauded.

2. Tom Lehman's third-round shot on 13: Lehman's tee shot tracked to the par-3 hole. It stopped 6 inches short for a tap-in birdie. He birdied the next two holes and four straight on the back nine to take the lead.

3. Brett Quigley and Charles Howell on the practice green: Both were one shot off the lead and finished with their rounds Sunday while Goosen was still on the course. They nervously stayed loose, able only to hear the crowd. "I wouldn't have cried if he missed that putt,'' Howell joked.

4. Following Ryo: No matter what 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa did, the Japanese media were there for it. The best moment was after his Sunday round. Even though he could've packed his car and left, he hit balls on the driving range. And the media recorded it.

5. Ponch: Erik Estrada wasn't there to golf, but seeing fans react to him in his CHiPs outfit was pretty funny. He was there on behalf of Transitions Optical to hand out "sight-ations'' for not wearing proper eyewear. Most fans over 40 just wanted a picture of the man who starred as Officer "Ponch" Poncherello on the NBC TV series from 1977-83.

Five who stood out

1. Retief Goosen: He was one of those who hung around the top of the leaderboard, and he didn't grab the lead until the final round. Faced with numerous tests on the back nine, he passed them all.

2. Tom Lehman: He is 50, and this is his last year full time on the PGA Tour. But he led after three rounds. Clearly a crowd favorite, he faded with a final-round 75.

3. Charles Howell: He needs a win to reach the Masters, and he gave it a run. He finished tied for second after four steady rounds. He hasn't won since 2007, but his game is in good-enough shape to break that streak.

4. Charlie Wi: The guy is 37, and he's won nine times all over the world, but never on the PGA Tour. There he was Sunday with a share of the lead on the back nine. He tied for fourth and had a solid tournament.

5. Brett Quigley: His second-place finish matched his performance in Puerto Rico a week earlier. There's a nice living to be made finishing second. Quigley shot three straight 68s and banked $475,000.

Five who fizzled

1. Jim Furyk: He shot a season-best 65 in the first round, then sank like a rock. His 78 Friday put him one above the cut line. He finished at 5 over and tied for 52nd.

2. Trevor Immelman: The Masters champ faded Sunday. He started the final round tied for third and shot 75 to fall back to a tie for 19th.

3. Mark Calcavecchia: Two years ago, he won the tournament. Friday, he failed to make the cut after a second-round 75 put him 2-over.

4. K.J. Choi: Another former champ who loves Copperhead but failed to make the cut. He was in contention after 70, but he faded to 74.

5. Ryo Ishikawa: Granted, he made the cut and is only 17. But he faded over the weekend on the lightning-fast greens. Not what the Japanese sensation had hoped for.

Five we'd like to see next year

1. Tiger Woods: He hasn't been here since 1996, when the event was the mixed-team JCPenney Classic. Don't think Innisbrook owner Sheila Johnson isn't trying to get him. But Tiger doesn't like to change his schedule much. Fingers are crossed for 2010.

2. Phil Mickelson: Lefty has played here but it's not his best course. Imagine having Woods and Mickelson at Innisbrook. It would need more parking lots.

3. Vijay Singh: It was a fluke he missed this year's event. He is recovering from surgery on his right knee, and the knee started to swell the week before in Miami. Expect this past champion to be back in 2010.

4. Sergio Garcia: He has been here and drawn large galleries. He's one of the best ball strikers on tour, and he's in his prime.

5. John Daly: He should be off his tour suspension by next season, but you never know what he is going to do next. Daly is always a fan favorite, especially at the Hooters Owl's Nest on the 16th hole.

By the numbers

1 Total players in the Official World Golf Ranking top 10 competing: Kenny Perry (No. 8).

8-under 276 Highest winning score on the tour this year.

17 Spots Retief Goosen moved up in the world ranking with his win, from 39 to 22.

26 Players who broke par in the 144-player field.

It's not too late to catch the stars

Though the tour has moved out of town, it is only 90 minutes down the road in Orlando this week. The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill begins today. Tiger Woods is there, as are Vijay Singh, Davis Love and Retief Goosen. The tour leaves Florida on Sunday and doesn't return until November.

Highs and lows of PGA Tour's Transitions Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor 03/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 26, 2009 1:06am]
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