Stewart Cink, 47, earned his second victory of the PGA Tour season with a four-stroke victory over Emiliano Grillo and Harold Varner III last weekend at the RBC Heritage. Cink became the fourth player in PGA Tour history to win multiple events in a season at 47 or older, joining Sam Snead in 1960, Julius Boros in 1967-68 and Kenny Perry in 2008-09. At a price of 125-1, Cink won the RBC Heritage for the third time in his career (2000, 2004, 2021) by leading the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and Greens In Regulation. He’s back in the OWGR Top 50 for the first time in over a decade.
The PGA Tour now heads to the "Big Easy" for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which became a team event in 2017. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19, so 2019 winners Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer are still the defending champions and the tournament favorites at 15-2. Patrick Cantlay finished seventh in 2018 with Patrick Reed but will team this time with Xander Schauffele (8-1), fresh off a third-place finish at the Masters two weeks ago.
Cameron Smith earned his first PGA Tour victory at this event in 2017, teaming with Jonas Blixt, but he will pair up with fellow Aussie Marc Leishman (12-1) this week. Bubba Watson (14-1), who won this tournament in 2011 when it was an individual stroke-play event, will team up with Scottie Scheffler. Young guns Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff (14-1) competed against each other regularly on the amateur and collegiate circuits but will be on the same side here. Tony Finau finished sixth in 2018 with lifelong friend and now-retired Daniel Summerhays, so he will partner up with Cameron Champ (16-1) this time.
Many teams in the field consist of former college teammates, including Chris Kirk and Brendon Todd (20-1), who were teammates on Georgia’s 2005 NCAA championship team, and Viktor Hovland and Kristoffer Ventura (35-1), who were teammates on Oklahoma State's 2018 NCAA championship squad. Several past and potential future Ryder and Presidents Cup pairings will also take part this week, including Danny Willett and Tyrrell Hatton (29-1), Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (40-1) and Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel (33-1).
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans dates to 1938 and has been played annually on the PGA Tour since 1958. Swiss insurance company Zurich took over as the tournament sponsor in 2005, and the Fore! Kids Foundation serves as the event organizer. In 2017, the Zurich Classic became a team event with 80 teams of two players with 35 teams making the weekend cut. The event winners do not receive Masters invitations but do earn 400 FedEx Cup points, a two-year PGA Tour exemption, plus invitations to the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The Players Championship. The first and third rounds will be four-ball (better ball) format, while the second and fourth rounds will be foursomes (alternate shot) formats.
TPC Louisiana has hosted the Zurich Classic of New Orleans since 2005 (except 2006 when course renovations post-Hurricane Katrina forced a move back to English Turn). It is in Avondale, which is a 15-minute drive southwest of Bourbon Street. The track was designed by Pete Dye in 2004 and renovated by Chris Gray in 2012. It is a public course of 7,425 yards and plays as a par-72. The layout is defended by 101 bunkers and five water hazards that are in play on eight holes. Two days after the 2019 tournament, the greens were redone with TifEagle Bermuda grass (changing from MiniVerde Bermuda overseeded with Poa and Velvet Bentgrass), and the fairways were transformed to Celebration Bermudagrass, so this is the first look the players will have at the renovated layout. The greens are 5,200 square feet on average and relatively fast (12 on stimpmeter).
Pete Dye is the designer, and there are a fair amount of Dye courses on the PGA Tour schedule every year if you are looking for a course correlation. They include:
• Austin Country Club – WGC Dell Match Play since 2016
• Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship
• Harbour Town – RBC Heritage
• Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 PGA Championship
• TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
• TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship
• TPC Stadium, PGA West – The American Express since 2016
• Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship
2019: Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm (-26/262), 16-1
2018: Billy Horschel/Scott Piercy (-22/266), 40-1
2017: Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith (-27/261), 100-1*
* playoff win over Scott Brown/Kevin Kisner
With this being a team event, it is difficult to find the usual statistical matches. However, certain categories are always going to be important each week. This tournament may also have even more of a bias toward more recent stats, so we will use the numbers for the last 24 player rounds on tour.
Strokes Gained: Approach
1. Max Homa (5)/Talor Gooch (8) = 13
2. Collin Morikawa (1)/Matthew Wolff (19) = 20
3. Matthew NeSmith (4)/Chase Seiffert (28) = 32
4. Jon Rahm (7)/Ryan Palmer (34) = 41
5. Xander Schauffele (20)/Patrick Cantlay (23) = 43
6. Marc Leishman (14)/Cameron Smith (49) = 63
7. Bubba Watson (24)/Scottie Scheffler (43) = 67
8. Tyler Duncan (26)/Adam Schenk (51) = 77
9. Tony Finau (10)/Cameron Champ (72) = 82
10. Charley Hoffman (2)/Nick Watney (81) = 83
11. Cameron Tringale (15)/Roberto Castro (68) = 83
Strokes Gained: Putting
1. Xander Schauffele (9)/Patrick Cantlay (15) = 24
2. Billy Horschel (12)/Sam Burns (19) = 31
3. Max Homa (16)/Talor Gooch (36) = 52
4. Brendon Todd (5)/Chris Kirk (48) = 53
5. Kristoffer Ventura (8)/Viktor Hovland (45) = 53
6. Danny Willett (13)/Tyrrell Hatton (44) = 57
7. Sebastian Cappelen (27)/Mark Hubbard (32) = 59
8. Marc Leishman (29)/Cameron Smith (31) = 60
9. Chesson Hadley (3)/Ben Martin (67) = 70
10. Kevin Kisner (11)/Scott Brown (64) = 75
Danny Willett/Tyrrell Hatton 29-1
The Englishmen have been longtime friends and should enjoy playing together. They should be highly effective together especially in the foursomes. In this week's field, Hatton rates seventh for Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 12th for Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 24 rounds. Meanwhile, Willett rates 13th in this field over the same span for Strokes Gained: Putting.
Max Homa/Talor Gooch 33-1
As a duo, Homa and Gooch rank No. 1 in this week's field combined for Strokes Gained: Approach and No. 3 for Strokes Gained: Putting.
Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 40-/1
Perhaps Masters week was an aberration for both as Rose finished seventh after leading after both of the first two rounds. Stenson also made the cut at Augusta, his first on the PGA Tour in 2021. They are longtime friends, former neighbors in the Lake Nona community of Orlando, and are 6-2 all time as a team in the Ryder Cup. Rose is also an endorser and brand ambassador for title sponsor Zurich and has won on this course before (2015).
Cameron Tringale/Roberto Castro 51-1
Tringale and Castro were teammates at Georgia Tech. They finished fifth in this event in 2019. Tringale has been playing well of late with two top-10s over his last six starts. He rates top 10 in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Total, Tee-To-Green, Ball Striking and Off The Tee over the course of the last 24 rounds.
Matthew NeSmith/Chase Seiffert 90-1
Both players have been making cuts and striking the ball well lately. As a team, they rank third in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Approach.
Tyler Duncan/Adam Schenk 150-1
Neither player is in great form, but the former Purdue Boilermakers could use this as a spot to turn their seasons around. They teamed up in this event in 2018 and finished seventh.
GRAN CANARIA LOPESAN OPEN
American John Catlin provided us with a 50-1 winner in this column by beating German Max Kieffer in a five-hole playoff at the Austrian Golf Open. Catlin won twice (Andalucia Masters and Irish Open) last September on the European Tour and is now ranked No. 79 in the OWGR. Catlin (30-1) and Kieffer (55-1) will try to recover from that lengthy playoff this week at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open in Spain.
The tournament favorite is Frenchman Antoine Rozner (14-1), who won six weeks ago at the Qatar Masters and last played a month ago at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Matthias Schwab (18-1) finished seventh last week in his home country and he shares a price tag with Englishman Sam Horsfield, who has finished 15-3-8 in his three 2021 events. Andy Sullivan (20-1) is the highest-ranked OWGR player (66) in this week's field. Rafa Cabrera-Bello (22-1) returns home to his birthplace to host this event.
With the cancellation of the Portugal Masters and the Open de France, the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open is a one-off event that kicks off a three-week swing (Tenerife Open and Tenerife Championship) in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain.
Meloneras Golf is the host venue for this week's one-off event. It is a track primarily designed for Canary Islands tourists. Designed by Ron Kirby in 2006, Meloneras features the Canarian mountains in the backdrop and is flanked by palm trees on the outward nine, with the Atlantic Ocean flanking several holes on the inward nine. The course, due to being designed with tourists in mind, is a shorter layout of slightly greater than 6,500 yards that typically plays as a par-71. Since this event had to be organized in such short order, it likely will not be lengthened as much, but will play as a par-70 for the European Tour professionals this week. Last week in Austria featured tougher scoring conditions in the cold and wind, so players will get the opposite this week with sunny and warm temperatures and light breezes.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello 22-1
Cabrera-Bello is the event host this week; however, the hosting responsibilities are largely reduced because of COVID-19. The Spaniard was born in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, and was married about a half-mile from this course.
Last year was the worst season for many players, including RCB, who missed 11 of 24 cuts. Nevertheless, he always tends to play better on a return to Europe after taking a step up in class on the PGA Tour.
Kurt Kitayama 25-1
Californian John Catlin won last week in Austria, so what is stopping fellow Californian Kitayama this week?
Players can score on this week's coastal track set with Paspalum greens. Good courses to consider for correlating results would be the European Tour’s stops in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Mauritius, and Kitayama has won the two latter events. Add to that a 12th at the Saudi International against tough competition earlier this season and a ninth in Qatar — which is also set to Paspalum at its current venue — and he seems to fit the profile this week.
Garrick Higgo 40-1
Higgo posted a fourth last week in Austria for his fourth top-20 in his last five starts.
Meloneras was designed by American Ron Kirby, who also worked on Gary Player's course in South Africa where Higgo won in 2019. The South African also won his first European Tour event last year at the Open de Portugal, which is another track off the Iberian coast like this week's venue.
Jamie Donaldson 50-1
Donaldson has an extensive history of good finishes in both Spain and Portugal.
The 45-year-old Welshman ranks third on the European Tour for Scoring Average over the last six months.
Alejandro Canizares 100-1
The Spaniard finished seventh last week in Austria. It was not his usually good putter that carried him either. Canizares was sixth in last week's field for both Total Driving and Ball Striking.
Zander Lombard 250-1
The South African made his first cut of 2021 and posted a nice 66 on Sunday in Austria. A Saturday 77, during which he carded a nine on the par-4 ninth hole, cost him a chance at potential contention for the final round. Lombard has been solid on coastal tracks over the years with a couple of top-10s at the Irish Open and a runner-up in Sicily.