On nothing more than a whim, I decided to take in Saturday's action at the Chrysler Championship at the Westin-Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. What follows here are merely a bunch of observations from a half day's adventure on the course. It was only a half day because we got stuck at a car dealership in Orlando in the morning.
Starting the day in Gainesville, Kristin and I drove to Orlando. This weekend was the lease maturation date on my Lexus IS300, so I had to turn it in. It was a sad, sad day because that car was SO much fun to drive, but it was time to move on. Kristin also had to get service on her car so we killed two birds with one stone. This service is what delayed us and we didn't leave Orlando until 12:30pm.
We arrived at Innisbrook around 2:30pm and the shuttle from the parking lot dropped us off at the 14th green. Our late arrival kept us from seeing a lot of the action, but didn't prevent us from having a great day. As we walked up to the green, Jonathan Kaye and John Huston were putting out. A quick glance at the third round groupings told us that it was unlikely that we would catch anyone of interest if we went ahead, so we decided to watch Kaye and Houston tee off on #15 and then go backwards. Just before we crossed #14 fairway, we saw Jose Maria Olazabal and Briny Baird both lay-up on the 590-yard monster, so nothing special to see there.
We skipped over to the hole at #12 to see Carl Pettersson and Robert Allenby walking off the green heading to #13. Approaching the 12th green were Jesper Parnevik and Justin Rose. With them was this throng of yellow and blue shirted guys matching Jesper's bright yellow shirt and royal blue pants. They were obviously European based on their distinct accents and mild scent. Jesper rolled in a beauty for birdie and the group of guys went wild. How neat is that?
Looking ahead at the groupings showed only Vijay Singh as the next best draw if we were to wait and neither of us are big Vijay fans, so we decided to make ourselves honorary Jesper-ites and walk the rest with Parnevik and Rose, paying close attention not to stand downwind of the European Parnevik fans.
Hopefully Kristin and I didn't cause Jesper's lack of birdies from that point on, but we had fun none the less. Here are those promised observations.
- The crowds were MUCH less than my previous experience at a PGA Tour event - Sunday at The Players Championship. There, you were lucky to only be three rows of people back while watching players drive or putt out. At the Chrysler, we were close enough to read the putts and give the players advice on the break.
- Everything I remember about the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook from playing Links 386 back in the day was true. The ground is either deep green with grass or rusty red from the pine needles. The rough was dangerously thick and if a ball didn't settle down into it, a miracle was at work.
- I've never seen so many Chrysler Crossfires before. In fact, I don't think I had ever seen a convertible Crossfire. What am amazing looking vehicle. The cool factor went up even more when we saw the concept Chrysler Atlantic. Think Batmobile or, as Kristin put it, the Ambiguously Gay Duo's car.
- I was puzzled by the lack of a blimp in the air for the overhead shots, but I heard on the telecast today that the air space was restricted because of George W. Bush being in the area.
- Cameras and any other digital equipment (cell phone, pagers, etc.) were restricted from the course, so we weren't able to get any pictures. That was probably the biggest disappointment of the day.
- Finally, being at a tournament in person, it seems like you have absolutely no idea what's going on around the rest of the course. Occasionally, you get a look at a scoreboard and see people posting birdies, pars and bogeys, but that's it. It's almost a relief to step into the PGA Merchandise tent at times because they have TVs with the telecast on it and you can see some of the other action.
Kristin and I are planning on doing an extended visit to a PGA Tour event next year, most likely the Funai Classic which combines our two biggest passions - golf and Disney.