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Innisbrook owner: I won't lose PGA tourney

SIGN HERE: The Bucs’ Ronde Barber, far left, prepares to sign an autograph for Foy Mills of Tampa while playing in the Tampa Bay Championship pro-am.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

SIGN HERE: The Bucs’ Ronde Barber, far left, prepares to sign an autograph for Foy Mills of Tampa while playing in the Tampa Bay Championship pro-am.

PALM HARBOR — A PGA Tour tournament will be held on the Copperhead Course in 2014, if Innisbrook Resort owner Sheila Johnson has anything to do with it.

There has been a PGA Tour event in Palm Harbor since 2000, but this year's tournament doesn't have a title sponsor; EverBank in Jacksonville came on at the last moment to be a presenting sponsor. No title sponsor has been secured for 2014, either. If one isn't signed by the end of this year, it could mean the end of the tournament.

"I'm like a dog on a bone, I am not going to let the Tampa Bay community down," Johnson said. "I am going to make sure this tournament stays around.

"We're very aggressively trying to find a sponsor. The PGA really loves this tournament. (PGA commissioner) Tim Finchem and everybody has been telling us we need to keep it here.

"I never look at things pessimistically. This is my baby. I'm not going to lose it."

Change of plans: Nineteen-year-old Jordan Spieth, the youngest player in the Tampa Bay Championship field, has no status on either the PGA or Web.com tours. He relies on sponsor's exemptions to enter tournaments, in the hope he will play well enough to eventually earn a temporary membership.

He tied for second in the PGA Tour's Puerto Rico Open on Sunday to earn a spot in the Tampa Bay Championship. Otherwise, he would have needed a sponsor's exemption to play.

"I played this course in an (American Junior Golf Foundation) all-star championship back when I was 14 or 15 years old, and it was a monster for me back then," Spieth said.

"On some of these holes, I'm able to hit irons instead of driver or 3-wood into the par 4s. The course is pure."

Spieth played in his first PGA event in 2010, as a 16-year-old at the Byron Nelson Classic. He tied for 16th. He spent last year playing for the University of Texas but decided to turn pro in December.

Spieth's future is uncertain.

"I still have a lot of work to do to have a permanent place to play," he said.

Iron man: Former University of Florida golfer Brian Gay is making his 12th straight start at Innisbrook, most of any player in the field. K.J. Choi and Tim Herron, also here this week, have played in 11 tournaments.

Wednesday Pro-Am: The teams of Vijay Singh (Doug Graska, Michael Lewers, Darrell Green), John Daly (Ed Droste, Bobby Jacobsen, Nick Reader) and Kevin Stadler (Robert Floyd, Ryan Williams, Gary Link) shot 12-under 59 to tie for the championship.

Innisbrook owner: I won't lose PGA tourney 03/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 10:39pm]
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