Zurich Classic Preview

04-25-17

I’m down to clown.

Let’s get weird, PGA Tour!

This will be the first partner event on Tour since 1981 so says the internet.

This week you’ll find more wrinkles than one of my dress shirts sitting in my closet.

I suggest one thing and one thing only: have fun.

Don’t waste your entire day paring down these pairs lest you find despair in the air.

Have an oyster and a hurricane and enjoy!

 

Zurich Classic

 

TPC Louisiana

Avondale, Louisiana

 

Yards: 7,425 per the official scorecard

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: MiniVerde Bermudagrass; 5,225 square feet on average

Stimpmeter: 12′

Rough: TifSport Bermudagrass at 2″;

Bunkers: 107

Water Hazards: 5

Course Architect(s): Pete Dye (2003) with player-consultant Steve Elkington.

Purse: $7.1 million ($1.022 each winner; 400 FedExCup points each winner).

Defending Champion:  Brian Stuard defeated Ben An and Jamie Lovemark in a playoff in the now-defunct stroke play format.

 

Notes:

  • Brand-new format this year with 80, two-man teams.
  • The top 35 teams and ties after 36 holes will advance to the weekend.
  • Alternating days of foursomes (alternate shot) and four balls (best ball) with the lowest total score winning.

 

 

2016-17 Winners

 

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson

Shell Houston Open: Russell Henley

Masters: Sergio Garcia

RBC Heritage: Wesley Bryan**

Valero Texas Open: Kevin Chappell*

 

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

 

The Particulars:

 

Gamers can’t argue that the Tour is boring and set in their ways!

The brand-new partner’s game at the Zurich Classic boasts 13 of the top 30 players in the OWGR after having just having three players last year for “normal” stroke play.

The new format presents new challenges but at least one constant remains: the course. Pete Dye’s TPC Louisiana has hosted this event since 2005 but missed the 2006 edition because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.

The last five years the winning score has been 19-under-par or lower. Those of you who will point out that last year’s winning total was only 15-under-par need to remember that event was only 54 holes.

The weather this time of year in New Orleans is usually very wet and very volatile. This leads to lift, clean and replace and target golf.

And birdies and eagles.

Lots of them.

Hearing the words “Pete Dye design” usually makes players on edge but not this week. With only two inches of rough and greens that run true these guys won’t have many problems on a stock par-72 layout.

Sure, there are Dye’s visual challenges and quirks but even light-hitting Brian Stuard was 15-under-par after three rounds last year and didn’t make one single bogey. Of the 83 players that made the cut, Stuard was 79th in driving distance and T-73 in fairways. Stuard led the field in SGP AND PPGIR and didn’t miss inside of 10 feet. Last year when Stuard won he was playing out of the No. 126-150 Category and hadn’t made a cut in a month.

Similarly to last week at TPC San Antonio, those who hit the most GIR will have the most birdie chances and those who don’t, better be able to get up-and-down.

 

 

Previous Champions

 

2016: Brian Stuard; -15*

2015: Justin Rose; -22

2014: Seung-Yul Noh; -19

2013: Billy Horschel; -20

2012: Jason Dufner; -19*

2011: Bubba Watson; -15*

2010: Jason Bohn; -18

2009: Jerry Kelly; -14

2008: x- Andres Romero; -13

2007: Nick Watney; -15

2006: English Turn hosted

2005: x-Tim Petrovic; -13*

 

*playoff

x-not playing this week

 

 

Course Ratings:

2011 is the only year that the course played over par. It has ranked inside of the top 12 easiest courses annually since 2011.

 

Persons of Interest:

Ball-strikers seem to jump off the page here as Watson, Dufner, Horschel and Rose don’t resonate as great putters.

As is usually the case when a birdie-fest breaks out, I’m leaning on the guys who tend to hit the most greens and can overpower the par fives.

With the new team format in place and stroke play eliminated, I’d expect guys to hole even more putts knowing their partner is “good”.

Expect fireworks so I’m loading up on those who can provide them!

Guys who have played together before in team events will have an advantage. I also believe that countrymen partners (non-USA) will have a sense of something bigger that could inspire. My biggest angle outside of talent this week will be ham-and-eggs. I don’t need two short-gamers or two bombers on the same team. I PREFER balance and will try and seek it out.

Course form won’t hurt this week because guys will be playing their own ball for 36 holes and prior knowledge on ANY Dye course never hurts.

 

Weather:

 

Usually The Big Easy is soaked and expecting rain the week of this event. Heck, last year they got five inches DURING the tournament so it is hardly a wonder why there was a Monday finish.

This year, New Orleans has taken 0.47 inches in the month of April. The average monthly rainfall is 4.61 inches so it’s dry to say the least.

A thunderstorm will hit Wednesday night but with temperatures in the upper 80’s on Thursday, the rain shouldn’t “stick”.

Friday and Saturday are also in the upper 80’s but wind will be in the forecast as well. The morning on Friday looks worse than the afternoon but there’s no escaping it all day Saturday as it will blow 25-35 mph. With an 80% chance of thunderstorms all day Sunday be ready for some start-stop action.

 

Facts and Figures:

 

  • Tournament record: 266, Justin Rose (2016).
  • Course record: 62, Ben Martin (2014).
  • Defending champions: None.
  • Multiple winners since 2010: None.
  • Maiden Tour victory: 8 of 12 as only Kelly, Bohn, Watson and Rose had already won on Tour.
  • First time at event: Romero
  • 2016 low round: 64, four players.
  • 2016 Rookies of note: Plenty in the top 31 and that’s not surprising on an easy track like this.
  • Last year, there were only THREE rounds above par of the top 30 finishers. #EasyInTheBigEasy.
  • There was ONE round above par in the top 15 players last year and just two at even par. #GoLowYo.

 

 

The Field

 

Favorites

in order of preference for this week and this tournament

 

Jason Day & Rickie Fowler: Day’s 32-under here the last two years playing and Fowler has been in this event every year since 2011. I’m not letting one tough round at Augusta scare me off Fowler and I’m not sure who’s going to make more putts than these two.

Thomas Pieters & Daniel Berger: These two rubber bands both hit it a mile off the tee, find plenty of GIR and can roll in a ton of birdies. They both rank in the top 40 in SGATG and are both inside the top 20 in SGP. With not much rough to worry about this week, they should have plenty of looks and makes.

Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson: The Ryder Cuppers are used to knocking it around together and it doesn’t hurt that Rose holds the tournament record on this track. Stenson’s recent form has been dire by anyone’s standards and this hit-and-giggle is exactly what should get him back on track. Stenson won’t mind some of the easier putting greens on Tour either for his first adventure in N’awlins.

Justin Thomas & Bud Cauley: Buncha Bama here as the former Roll Tiders pair up to take a swing at a million each. Thomas won’t need it as he already has three wins this year but Cauley is looking for his first win on Tour. Last time out Thomas closed at Augusta with 71-70 so it looks as he’s diving back into form. There’s no question about form for Cauley as he’s painted the top 10 on his own ball the last two weeks at Harbour Town and TPC San Antonio.

Branden Grace & Louis Oosthuizen: They’ll be fine-tuning for this fall’s Presidents Cup as they look to knock off the US at Liberty National in late September. Grace turned on the jets on the weekend at Augusta (71-70) and hasn’t looked back. He defended the following week at Harbour Town with T-11 and returned to the top 10 (T-10) last week at TPC San Antonio. Year in and year out, when healthy, Oosthuizen is one of the best tee-to-green. This group will also hit plenty of fairways and GIR but someone will have to find the hot flat stick.

Hideki Matsuyama & Hideto Tanihara: World No. 4 Matsuyama broke out of a funk with T-11 and there aren’t many better tee-to-green. Tanihara has enjoyed T-32, fourth, MC and T-39 run in North America since coming over for the WGC-Mexico because his putter travels. Ham. Eggs.

Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer: The story goes that Palmer’s caddy beat Spieth at Colonial heads-up and the bet he had to pay off was teaming up with Palmer for this event. The last time Spieth played in a team event Patrick Reed almost broke him in half with high-fives at Hazeltine. Palmer’s game is coming good at the right time as he backed up T-11 at RBC with T-6 last week both finishes included a round two shots over par. The only question for this group for me is Spieth’s interest level if and when it goes off the rails.

Russell Henley & Blayne Barber: I have no reservations on two Southerners on Bermudagrass who have been in decent form lately. Barber has rattled off six cuts in a row and has posted 64 here during his T-8 in 2015. Henley won the SHO and followed that up with T-11 at the Masters and T-26 at Harbour Town. He’s played 11 of 13 weekends this season and is lit from tee-to-birdie.

Tony Finau & Daniel Summerhays: Dan’s brother Boyd is Tony’s coach so it’s all in the family this week minus Archie and Edith. Finau went close at Valero last week finishing T-3 for his fourth top 10 of the year. Summerhays is as steady as they come off the tee and Finau is one of the longest and best bal-strikers around. I’ll leave the putting to Summerhays this week and the GIR to Finau. #UtahMafia.

Luke Donald & Jamie Lovemark: These two might not hit any GIR but they can both get up-and-down from a trash bin. Lovemark should have mixed emotions as he returns after losing in a playoff to Brian Stuard last year. Donald gave it his annual sniff at Harbour Town before being blown away last week in San Antonio. I’ll take two excellent putters on a less-than-difficult ball-striking course. See the Stuard numbers above from last year if you have questions.

 

 

Off the Beaten Path

Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings, general mish-mash.

 

Patrick Reed & Patrick Cantlay: One of these guys can’t get out of their own way and the other wants to play his own ball this week. There’s a reason they’re not in the upper group as a team and that’s because of the bad man who single-handedly willed the USA to victory in the Ryder Cup. Cantlay is on fire and should make a million birdies this week. But if recent Reed shows up, they’re going to struggle a bit.

Steve Stricker & Jerry Kelly: They finished second at the Shark Shootout last December so don’t let that age fool you. Neither one of them hit it far enough to get in any problem and both have nasty short game.

Jason Dufner & Patton Kizzire: Good ham-and-eggs pairing this as the former Auburn Tigers blend precision irons with excellent short game. Dufner was in the mix at RBC his last time out and is on a run of one MC since the 2016 Masters. Kizzire has been dire but he did post T-8 here last year in his first trip. Dufner will give him confidence knowing that he won’t have to hit every fairway and green.

Kevin Kisner & Scott Brown: Here’s hoping the Palmetto Club duo burn up the Bermuda. Kisner had the lead with 12 holes to play his last time out at RBC but blew a tire coming home for T-11. Brown has T-2 at Riviera and T-17 in Puerto Rico as his two best recent finishes.

Jhonattan Vegas & Fabian Gomez: Vegas is 25-under here the last two years and that’s over only seven rounds. His consistent form stretches back to his win at RBC Canadian last August and I’ll gladly ride on that wagon. Gomez has 16 rounds here and 13 are in red figures. These two South Americans should be very comfortable.

Si Woo Kim & Sung Kang: I hope I’ve shoved this pair of Koreans down here far enough that most of you have given up already. Kang has been electric over the last month with a pair of top 10’s in his last three. The wildcard here is Kim but, as we saw last year, when he’s healthy and functioning, he’s legit. His T-22 last week suggests, hopefully, that any injuries are behind him.

Andrew Loupe & John Peterson: The LSU boys will be the SEC home team pairing this week. Loupe’s T-10 at SHO was on the back of hitting the top 10 in both putting categories. Peterson is the ball-striker of the bunch but I hope they don’t have too much fun as informal hosts.

Koepka & Koepka: Brooks is too hot to omit completely but after finishing second last week at VTO he said him and his brother could win this or kill each other by the second hole. Chase plays on the European Challenge Tour occasionally and has six MC from eight tries.

Keegan Bradley & Brendan Steele: These two vets should overpower the place and have plenty of chances to make birdies. Steele has been extremely consistent since back-to-back MC last summer and the partner game might be exactly what Bradley needs to pop another top 10.

Ollie Schniederjans & Richy Werenski: We’ll see how broad the shoulders of the hatless man are this week as his form is flying recently. Werenski’s best finish was T-9 at the CB Challenge on scoring courses.

Smylie Kaufman & Harold Varner, III: Smash it, find it, smash it again and eagle all of the par fives. There’s always one team isn’t there?

 

Fades:

 

Kevin Chappell & Gary Woodland: I’m not sure how much either of these two will have left in the emotional tank for this week. Chappell finally broke through in San Antonio last week and his reaction on the 18th green showed what it meant to him. Woodland has had a pair of tragedies in his life recently as he lost one of his babies during match play (his wife was pregnant with twins) and recently lost his coach and mentor from college. Focusing on golf can’t be easy for him right now.

Billy Horschel & Matt Every: Move this baby to Bay Hill and I’m in.

Chris Kirk & Brendon Todd: I remember when Todd was in the preview column for an entire year. He’s now No. 872 in the world and has MC in 25 of his last 27 Tour tries.

Russell Knox & Kevin Streelman: Hard to lean on a pair whose best putter is 140th SGP while the other is 183rd.

Bubba Watson & J.B. Holmes: Watson just flew in from China and there’s weather in the forecast so yeah.

 

Next:

 

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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