The Transitions Championship is a month away, and things are already busy at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course. Grandstands and hospitality tents are being erected for the PGA Tour stop, and tournament officials unveiled a new monument Tuesday on the 16th hole.
A statue of a copperhead snake on top of a tree stump by the tee will greet golfers and spectators. A caption on the statue says, "The Snake Pit." The hole has been renamed "The Moccasin," No. 17 is now "The Rattler" and No. 18 is "The Copperhead."
"These holes statistically ranked as the fourth toughest finishing holes in golf last year,'' tournament director Gerald Goodman said. "Other courses have names for their tough holes and we felt these holes needed a name.''
SPONSOR ISSUES: Transitions Optical president Brett Craig mentioned several times on Tuesday how much sponsoring the tournament has helped name recognition for his company. Transitions is in the second year of a four-year agreement, with a two year extension that can be exercised in the fourth year.
While Craig has no regrets about taking over sponsorship, and its $7 million annual cost, he stopped short of saying the company will be on board after the contract expires.
"It's really predicated on the how we do this year and what we're getting from this investment,'' Craig said. "We're very happy so far, especially with these economic times. We're pretty committed, although you can never guarantee anything.''
COMMITMENTS: There has been no commitment from Tiger Woods (he has never played the Transitions) but the field is shaping up. Recent commitments include Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Geoff Ogilvy and Vijay Singh.
The exemptions have also been filled. The sponsors' exemptions are John Daly, Rocco Mediate, David Duval and Chris DiMarco. Two commissioner's exemptions were added: Japan's Yuta Ikeda, who won four times on the Japanese Tour last year, and Robert Karlsson of Sweden.
"David Duval can win our tournament,'' Goodman said. "Rocco Mediate has been very good for this tournament, and Chris DiMarco has local ties with the University of Florida and can bring some fans out. There's a lot of players out there that need sponsors' exemptions so it was hard to get to these four."
PRICE CHECK: There have been changes to admission. It's free on Monday, anyone under 17 is free with a paying adult, and general admission tickets have been cut 25 percent. Buy tickets at www.transitionschampionship.com or at Publix.