LUTZ — For the first time in recent memory, tournament director Amy Hawk doesn't have to stay glued to the Weather Channel. The event moved to the friendlier mid-April date for the first time this year for two main reasons: unpredictable February weather and more daylight with which to work.
The weather will cooperate. Mid April could've brought hot, muggy conditions. Instead the weekend forecast is 80 degrees and sunny.
While Tampa Bay tends to lose some of its part-time residents after Easter, Hawk is optimistic about attendance.
"Our advanced tickets sales are very encouraging,'' she said. "We're projecting around 100,000 for the three days. That would put us ahead of any other past tournament. And we have nearly 200 more volunteers than we had last year.''
The tournament found out in March 2007 that it would fill an April slot in the 2008 Champions Tour schedule. It had been in February for the past 20 years. Hawk launched a full scale publicity campaign about the change.
"Getting the word out early and often helped a lot,'' she said.
While Hawk got a break from the weather, she did have to deal with one bit of bad news. A big draw and the defending amateur champion, actor-comedian Bill Murray, withdrew because of a scheduling conflict.
"That was a tough one,'' Hawk said. "He had a mutual friend call to say he couldn't make it. I know he feels really, really bad. He had every intention of coming. But I think that he'll be back in the future.''
Watson Arrives: Defending champion Tom Watson arrived at TPC of Tampa Bay on Tuesday to film a commercial for Adams Golf. Watson's victory last year made him the seventh holder of a major champion to win the tournament in the 16 years it has been played at TPC of Tampa Bay. He joined Dave Stockton (1995), Jack Nicklaus (1996), David Graham (1997), Larry Nelson (1999), Hale Irwin (2005) and Jerry Pate (2006).
Gone Fishing: While most of the field will either practice or play in today's pro-am, some will spend the day fishing as part of a Fish With the Pros event in Tierra Verde. Andy Bean, Fuzzy Zoeller, Bruce Vaughan, Denis Watson and Bob Murphy will trade their clubs for rods.