PALM HARBOR — The Snake Pit wasn’t the only thing with bite Thursday.
The entire Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club wreaked havoc on scores, but on top of the notoriously tough course, golfers struggled with windy, cold conditions, especially in the morning. In all, pros turned in just seven rounds under par from the morning tee times, while the afternoon times yielded better scoring.
“I think we knew the forecast was for some winds and cold temperatures, and it was correct,” 2012 champion Luke Donald said. “It was a battle out there. This course isn’t easy in good conditions.”
While Matt Every would turn in a morning-best 3-under 68, others, such as Michael Putnam, who bogeyed the 16th to turn in a 2-under 69, also were stung by the windy cold.
“I had a shirt, sweater and another sweater on,” Putnam said. “That wind was whipping pretty hard this morning.”
Ben Crane, who shot a 1-under 70 after bogeying 17, said it was too cold for his 9 a.m. tee time.
“I found (the weather) four layers deep,” Crane said. “Just had (on) a beanie, and I should have brought my mittens — that’s how cold it was. When I packed those things, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to need this.’ You don’t expect that in Florida.”
As the afternoon warmed up and got to the low 60s, many climbed the leaderboard and turned in subpar rounds. Sun and a high of 73 are expected today, but that’s little consolation for those who struggled Thursday.
“It was one of the coldest days I’ve seen this year,” said 2011 champion Gary Woodland, who shot a 1-over 72. “It was blowing, and the key this morning was staying warm. I didn’t have enough clothes today and the cold was eating through my sweater, so bogeying the last two (holes) was even more frustrating.”
Defending champion Kevin Streelman shot a 2-over 73 in the first round Thursday, and was bitten by the 17th hole on Copperhead’s infamous Snake Pit, as the course’s three finishing holes are known.
Streelman, who earned his first PGA Tour win here in 2013, started his first round on the 10th hole, and he entered the Snake Pit even, only to double bogey 17 and birdie 18. On 17, a poor bunker shot for his second flew the green, and Streelman would two-putt from 12 feet.
On 18, Streelman nailed a 170-yard approach shot to 9 feet and drained the birdie putt.
Streelman bogeyed holes 3, 4 and 6, and birdied 5 and 9 on his back nine.
Ben Martin had the notoriety of having the worst first round Thursday, but he also brought in one of the best, and longest, putts.
Martin, a sixth-year Tour veteran, had just two birdies during the first round, but it was the one on the 17th, in the heart of The Snake Pit, that was memorable.
Martin had the longest putt on 17, draining one from 36 feet, 8 inches, despite shooting a first-round 78.
Shot of the day
Sean O’Hair, who won this tournament in 2008, was struggling most of his round until he hit The Snake Pit. Entering the 16th hole at 3 over, O’Hair also bogeyed that hole to move to 4 over before putting together back-to-back birdies that included a remarkable approach shot on 18th.
Sitting 146 yards out in the rough, O’Hair hit his second shot just 9 inches from the pin for a tap-in birdie and a 73 for the first round.
Shot of the day II
David Lingmerth nearly had the fourth hole-in-one at the 17th hole in front of the usually rowdy Hooters Owls’ Nest crowd. From 193 yards, Lingmerth nearly aced the par 3 on The Snake Pit, hitting his tee shot to just 4 inches from the hole.
That tap-in birdie would be just one of two he had Thursday in his round of 73.
Jim Furyk, the 2010 champion at this event, finished the first round at even par, along with 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and 2011 British Open champ Darren Clarke, who is playing for the first time at the Copperhead course. … 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, 2012 FedEx Cup champ Brandt Snedeker, two-time British Open champion Ernie Els, two-time major winner Angel Cabrera and two-time Valspar champ K.J. Choi all finished 1 over par. … Louis Oosthuizen, Y.E. Yang and Matt Kuchar finished 2 over par. … Stewart Cink, Boo Weekley, who finished second at Copperhead in 2013, and John Daly finished 3 over par. … Brian Gay, making his 14th straight appearance at this tournament, was 4 over.