PGA Tour best bets: Zurich Classic

April 19, 2022 11:30 PM
USATSI_15952319

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).

The Event

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans dates to 1938 and has been played annually since 1958. In 2017, the Zurich Classic became a team event with 80 two-man teams. Winners do not receive Masters invitations but do earn 400 FedEx Cup points, two-year PGA Tour exemptions, plus invitations to the Tournament of Champions and The Players Championship. 

Here is the format for the event:

Thursday: Four-Ball (Best Ball)

Friday: Foursomes (Alternate Shot)

Cut: Top 33 teams plus ties

Saturday: Four-Ball (Best Ball)

Sunday: Foursomes (Alternate Shot)

In Four-Ball play, players on each team will each play their own ball, with the best score on each hole recorded. Example: On the first hole, Player A makes par and Player B makes birdie. The team is credited with a birdie.

In Foursomes, players will rotate tee shots. One player will hit the tee shot on odd-numbered holes, and the other will hit the tee shot on even-numbered holes. Example: Player A and Player B are partners. On the first hole, Player A tees off, Player B plays the second shot, Player A plays the third shot and so on until the ball is holed. The total strokes taken is the team’s score for that hole.

Here are this week's 80 teams:

— Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland

— Jason Day, Jason Scrivener

— Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman

— Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood

— Scottie Scheffler, Ryan Palmer

— Danny Willett, Tyrrell Hatton

— Shane Lowry, Ian Poulter

— Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose

— Billy Horschel, Sam Burns

— Kevin Kisner, Scott Brown

— Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay

— Bubba Watson, Harold Varner III

— Max Homa, Talor Gooch

— Joaquin Niemann, Mito Pereira

— Ryan Brehm, Mark Hubbard

— Joel Dahmen, Stephan Jaeger

— Tyler Duncan, Adam Schenk

— Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie

— Branden Grace, Garrick Higgo

— Lucas Herbert, Arjun Atwal

— Jim Herman, Vaughn Taylor

— Tom Hoge, Paul Barjon

— Sungjae Im, Byeong An

— Sung Kang, John Huh

— Patton Kizzire, J.T. Poston

— Martin Laird, Robert MacIntyre

— Adam Long, Bo Hoag

— Graeme McDowell , Seamus Power

— Keith Mitchell, Brandt Snedeker

— Chad Ramey, Joshua Creel

— Sepp Straka, Greyson Sigg

— Robert Streb, Troy Merritt

— Brendon Todd, Chris Kirk

— Martin Trainer, Jim Knous

— Kevin Tway, Kelly Kraft

— Richy Werenski, Peter Uihlein

— Bill Haas, Jay Haas

— Nick Watney, Charley Hoffman

— Rafa Cabrera Bello, Emiliano Grillo

— Tommy Gainey, Robert Garrigus

— Sam Horsfield, Matt Wallace

— Scott Piercy, Sean O'Hair

— Alex Noren, Henrik Norlander

— Keegan Bradley, Brendan Steele

— Cameron Tringale, Wyndham Clark

— Charl Schwartzel, Christiaan Bezuidenhout

— Maverick McNealy, Joseph Bramlett

— Harry Higgs, Austin Smotherman

— Doug Ghim, Matthias Schwab

— Brandon Hagy, Cameron Percy

— Brian Stuard, Russell Knox

— Doc Redman, Sam Ryder

— Hank Lebioda, Chase Seiffert

— Denny McCarthy, Ben Kohles

— Adam Hadwin, Adam Svensson

— James Hahn, Kevin Chappell

— Matthew NeSmith, Taylor Moore

— Kyle Stanley, Camilo Villegas

— Brice Garnett, Scott Stallings

— Chesson Hadley, Jonathan Byrd

— Will Zalatoris, Davis Riley

— Danny Lee, Sangmoon Bae

— Seung-Yul Noh, Michael Kim

— Sahith Theegala, Beau Hossler

— Alex Smalley, Hayden Buckley

— Lee Hodges, Vince Whaley

— Patrick Rodgers, Brandon Wu

— Aaron Rai, David Lipsky

— Max McGreevy, Andrew Novak

— Kurt Kitayama, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

— Trey Mullinax, Wesley Bryan

— Curtis Thompson, Nick Hardy

— Seth Reeves, Jared Wolfe

— Justin Lower, Dylan Wu

— Austin Cook, Jason Dufner

— Callum Tarren, David Skinns

— Scott Gutschewski, D.A. Points

— Michael Gligic, Ryan Armour

— Dawie van der Walt, Brett Drewitt

— Bo Van Pelt, Ben Martin

The Course

TPC Louisiana has hosted the Zurich Classic every year but one since 2005 (course renovations after Hurricane Katrina forced a move back to English Turn in 2006) and 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. A public course, it plays as a par-72 of  7,425 yards. The layout is defended by 106 bunkers and five water hazards that are in play on eight holes. Two days after the 2019 tournament, the greens were re-done with TifEagle Bermuda grass (changing from MiniVerde Bermuda) overseeded with Poa Trivialis, and the fairways were changed to Celebration Bermudagrass. The greens are 5,225 square feet on average and relatively fast (12 on stimpmeter).

After Hurricane Ida hit on Aug. 29, the club was without power for two weeks and was closed until Nov. 1. Nine acres of wooded areas had to be removed along with an additional 700 trees. The most notable lost tree was in the middle of the fairway at No. 11. Four hundred new trees have been added since the hurricane. 

If you’re looking for course correlation, here’s a look at some Dye tracks on the PGA Tour:

— Austin Country Club (WGC-Match Play since 2016)

— Crooked Stick (2012 and 2016 BMW Championships)

— Harbour Town (Heritage)

— Kiawah Island Ocean Course (2012 and 2021 PGA Championships)

— TPC River Highlands (Travelers)

— TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship)

— TPC Stadium Course at PGA West (American Express since 2016)

— Whistling Straits (2010 and 2015 PGA Championships)

Other correlated courses include the other TPCs on the PGA Tour, including TPC Twin Cities and TPC Scottsdale. 

Recent History/Winners

2021: Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith (-20/268); 12-1

2020: No tournament (COVID-19)

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 Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel*

Playoff win over Scott Brown/Kevin Kisner**

Selections

​Billy Horschel/Sam Burns (13-1 Boyd Sports)

Horschel has two victories at TPC Louisiana, one as an individual in 2013 and one in the team event in 2019 (with Scott Piercy). He also has four top-11 finishes already in 2022, so he is knocking on the door. Burns, already with a win this year at the Valspar Championship, would love nothing more than to win one in his home state.

Byeong Hun An/Sungjae Im (40/1 DraftKings)

Im finished eighth at the Masters and ranked fourth last week at the Heritage for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green in a 21st-place finish. An dropped down to the Korn Ferry Tour this year but has all but secured his return next year with a win in February and a runner-up finish last week. An had his best finish on the PGA Tour at TPC Louisiana in 2016, when he lost in a playoff as an individual.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout/Charl Schwartzel (60/1 DraftKings)

Schwartzel finished runner-up here last year as he and Louis Oosthuizen lost in a playoff. The former Masters champion followed up his great showing at Augusta two weeks ago (his first made cut of the season) with another made cut at the Heritage.

Adam Hadwin/Adam Svensson (65/1 DraftKings)

Team Canada has five top-10 finishes between them in 2022. 

Tyler Duncan/Adam Schenk (180/1 DraftKings)

The Purdue Boilermakers disappointed in the NCAA Tournament but could surprise here. They will enjoy playing together as Duncan was the best man at Schenk's wedding.

​ISPS Handa Championship in Spain

After three weeks off, the DP World Tour returns to action with two events in Spain over the next two weeks. The first event is this week's ISPS Handa Championship in Spain. Bernd Weisberger and Rasmus Hojgaard are co-favorites at 18-1. Hojgaard’s twin brother, Nicolai, slots in at 25-1. Leading the Spanish contingent are Adri Arnaus (22-1), Pablo Larrazabal (28-1) and Adrian Otaegui (35-1). Ryan Fox and Julien Brun are also 35-1. 

This tournament was created as a one-off event after the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan was removed from the schedule in February. Next week’s tournament, the Catalunya Championship, is another one-off which was created to replace the postponed Volvo China Open.

Infinitum Lakes is a resort course alongside Infinitum Hills, and both courses are familiar to many of those in this week’s field, having hosted Q-School Stage 2 and Q-School Final Stage, among other pro events.

The Lakes course, which will host all four rounds this week, is a Greg Norman design built around the Sequia Major wetlands and sits just off the Balearic coastline. The track, a par-70 of 6,963 yards, is an exposed layout that features extensive Norman-style bunkering, with water in play on 14 holes.

Selections

Adrian Otaegui (40-1)

The Spaniard has two top fives in 2022 (third, Ras al Khaimah; fifth, Qatar last time out). His tee-to-green game should be an ideal fit for this course. 

Laurie Canter (40-1)

Canter has had a couple of close shaves the last two seasons on the DP World Tour. This track looks to be a good spot to break his maiden considering he twice earned his tour card on this course. 

Antoine Rozner (66-1)

The Frenchman has made four straight cuts. He has always been a good wind player, as evidenced by his win at the 2021 Qatar Masters, and the wind is expected to pick up this week.

Hurly Long (80-1)

Preceding a missed cut in Qatar, Long made five straight cuts and finished 21st or better in three of them. He was particularly impressive in a third-place finish in the Ras Al Khaimah Classic and a runner-up in the Kenya Open. Long played this course in the 2019 Q-School Final and carded rounds of 65 and 67 on this track. 

Lucas Nemecz (125-1)

The Austrian had three runners-up on the Challenge Tour in 2021 to earn a promotion to the DP World Tour. Nemecz was fifth here in 2015 at Q-School Stage 2 and ranks in the top 30 on the DP World Tour for both Driving Accuracy and Strokes Gained: Approach. He should be able to generate some birdie opportunities, as he did in a third-place finish at Ras al Khaimah earlier this season.

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