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PGA Tour best bets: Zurich Classic

April 19, 2022 11:30 PM

Despite having the worst Strokes Gained: Putting number (-2.55) in a PGA Tour victory since 2009, Jordan Spieth won the RBC Heritage by leading the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green. Spieth, who won for the 13th time on tour, handed Patrick Cantlay his second playoff defeat in 2022 (Phoenix Open). Aside from the playoff participants, several others had a chance at victory Sunday including my tip Shane Lowry, who held a two-shot lead with five holes to play but carded a double bogey on the par-3 14th after his chip shot found the water. Lowry ended up third. Harold Varner III was the leader after three rounds but also finished third (the others in a seven-way tie for third were Cameron Davis, J.T. Poston, Matt Kuchar, Cameron Young and Sepp Straka). Varner became the most recent 54-hole leader that couldn’t convert at the Heritage. Only two 54-hole leaders in the last 11 years have held on to win at Harbour Town. That has also been a recent pattern on the PGA Tour at large. Only two of the last 24 players to hold a one-stroke lead after 54 holes have gone on to win. 

The tour changes gears this week and heads to the Big Easy for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which has been a team event since 2017. The favorites are a first-time team of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland (13-2), the Nos. 2 and 5 players in the OWGR. Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (8-1) went 2-0 as partners in foursomes at the Ryder Cup in the fall. The defending Zurich Classic champions are the Australian duo of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith (10-1). Smith also won this event in 2017 with Jonas Blixt. Ryan Palmer, another former winner of this event (with Jon Rahm in 2019), tends to find ringers as his partners. He has won this event with Rahm, has partnered with Spieth and this year pairs up with the hottest player in the world, OWGR No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (11-1). 

Billy Horschel is a two-time winner in New Orleans, once in 2013 as an individual and then in 2018 with Scott Piercy. Horschel pairs with Louisiana resident Sam Burns (12-1) for a second time in this event (they were fourth last year). Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia (16-1) were runners-up here in 2019 to Rahm and Palmer. Lowry will try to get over consecutive third-place finishes, at the Masters and the Heritage, and attempt to get over the hump with Ian Poulter (22-1). Team Chile is made up of Mito Pereira and Joaquin Niemann (25/1), who earned his second career PGA Tour victory at the Genesis Invitational. Varner, still seeking his first PGA Tour win, holed a 92-foot eagle putt to win the Saudi International and defeat his partner this week, Bubba Watson (28-1).

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