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Innisbrook experience helps Robert Garrigus

Robert Garrigus shoots 2-under 69 to sit one shot back of the lead after the first round at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor. After arriving Monday, he spent most of his time fishing on the Island Course, not playing Copperhead. Fishing keeps him relaxed, he says.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Robert Garrigus shoots 2-under 69 to sit one shot back of the lead after the first round at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor. After arriving Monday, he spent most of his time fishing on the Island Course, not playing Copperhead. Fishing keeps him relaxed, he says.

PALM HARBOR — Robert Garrigus arrived at Innisbrook on Monday, but Thursday was the first time he played the Copperhead Course this week.

"I just hit balls (at the driving range) for a couple hours on Tuesday and putted a little," he said. "For three days I went fishing on the Island Course. I caught a bunch of hogs (bass) and had a lot of fun."

In the first round of the Valspar Championship, Garrigus, who has played Innisbrook's PGA Tour event seven times, shot 2-under 69 in the morning and was in a group of seven that was one shot behind the leaders.

In 2012, Garrigus lost the Innis­brook tournament in a playoff to Luke Donald.

"Went fishing that week, too," he said.

Garrigus, 36, said he likes to fish the lakes off the 18th green and No. 10 tee box at the Island Course, and the lake that stretches around the first and sixth holes. He gets especially excited when he plays a course with lots of water.

"I look at the tournaments that I play well at and there's usually good fishing," he said. "It's hilarious to think about, but it gets me away from everything. It keeps me relaxed and I'm ready to go on Thursdays."

Austin keeps grinding: Former Tampa resident Woody Austin turned 50 in January and could be spending his time on the Champions Tour. But he isn't done proving he can play with the younger crowd.

He shot par 71 Thursday and was three shots off the lead.

"I didn't hit it very well at all, but I scrambled my butt off," Austin said. "No complaints."

Austin said he will slowly transition to playing on the Champions Tour.

Green paint? Valspar Corp., a paint and coatings manufacturer based in Minneapolis, took over as the tournament title sponsor this year, but there's no truth to the rumor paint is on the greens.

Some players said grass on the greens is a little thin. "There's a lot of spots where the flags are right now that don't have a lot of grass," Garrigus said. "It looks like it's painted. We kept telling each other that dirt don't break. We were having fun with it."

Former Gator Matt Every, one of the four co-leaders at 3-under 68, wasn't impressed with the greens, either. "The overseed on the greens isn't really good," he said. "I know they do it to make it look green, but it should be Bermuda (grass), not Rye. There's not a lot of grass on the green."

Getting back into form: Retief Goosen, the 2003 and '09 champion, has struggled with back problems the past two years. He had surgery in 2012 and missed four months with a back fracture last year.

Goosen said he started playing again in September, but the results have been underwhelming. In his past five tournaments he has missed three cuts, and his best finish was a tie for 64th at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

At Innisbrook he opened with 1-over 72.

"(The back) is feeling great," Goosen said. "I'm playing poorly, unfortunately. I need to get into a rhythm of hitting good shot after good shot."

Innisbrook experience helps Robert Garrigus 03/13/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 12:04am]

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