Zurich Classic Recap

05-01-17

Well, that was something new and exciting!

Congratulations to Cameron Smith on his first Tour win and Jonas Blixt for win No. 3. They defeated Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown on the fourth playoff hole Monday at TPC Louisiana outside New Orleans.

Wow, title belts!

Hahaha, that’s awesome!

Each week in this column I try and share my thoughts about what I might have learned about the winner(s) and tournament from the previous week.

I learned nothing this week.

Nada. Nip. Nothing.

Except that there is ALWAYS a delay in this event and the course isn’t difficult.

Oh, and Monday finishes are on a streak of two in a row.

 

Tournament Hindsight

Next year, guys better find a combo that makes birdies as 27–under-par only qualified your team for a playoff and 19-under-par hit the top 10.

Smith and Blixt did not make a bogey in 72 holes. That’s remarkable.

The same should be said for finding weather players because New Orleans in the spring constantly produces volatile wind and weather conditions.

Jonas Blixt entered the week with nothing better than T-20 on Tour in 14 events this season. He also MC seven times but there’s no doubting how well he putts. His caddy and Smith were the connection that brought this team together.

Smith, the 23-year-old Aussie, broke onto the scene for gamers with a top 10 in his first PGA Tour at the WGC-HSBC Champions.  He followed that up with another top 10 at Chambers Bay at the 2015 U.S. Open and the cat was out of the bag.

He’s rattled off nine weekends in 11 tries in 2017 and was T-6 in San Antonio last week. Similarly to Blixt, he makes his cash when he’s on the greens and has no problem making birdies. His other top finishes this season were T-11 and Sanderson Farms and T-10 the following week at Las Vegas in the fall portion of the season.

The cut was seven-under-par and 43 teams played the weekend with seven falling victim to the MDF.

Blixt and Smith both receive two-year exemptions on Tour and 400 (1st and 2nd combined) FedExCup points plus over $1 million each for their victory. Sadly, there is no Masters invite that comes with this,

 

The Best of the Rest

 

Kevin Kisner & Scott Brown (P-2): The Palmetto Club mafia played amazing golf for the final 27 holes to force the playoff. These two dudes have no problem dialing up the putter and the pressure of having to make birdies didn’t seem to bother them too much. Kisner has been close lately and that’s great news for all investors. He led with 12 holes remaining at Harbour Town before finishing T-11 and adds P-2 this week. This might be exactly what Brown needs to ignite his spring as making birdies can be contagious.

Kevin Tway & Kelly Kraft (3rd): They weren’t huge fans of alternate shot (three-under) but they absolutely roasted the better ball format as they were a whopping 20-under-par. Tway continued his momentum from his top five at Valero last week and reinforced that his power can work on courses where the rough isn’t troublesome. Kraft picks up his second top 10 as a pro and second of this season. His other was solo second at Pebble Beach to his fellow Dallas resident Jordan Spieth. Entering the week Kraft had missed five cuts from his seven events after Pebble with a WD and T-65. I learned that birdies are contagious as Smith and Tway both were in the top 10 last week.

Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer (4th): The most interesting part of this pairing was the way they were put together. Palmer’s caddy beat Spieth straight-up last fall and the bet was he had to pair with his boss, Palmer. The Longhorn and Aggie showed they could put their rivalry behind them and hit some golf shots. That was the most surprising part of the week as Spieth played in the penultimate group at Augusta his last time out and Palmer entered the week of T-11 at Harbour Town and T-6 at Valero his last two times out. Palmer will be on my radar in OAD at Colonial, his home course, in a few weeks.

Jason Dufner & Patton Kizzire (T-5): Auburn boys club provided an excellent combo platter of ball-striking (Dufner) and short-game (Kizzire). Dufner’s solid 2017 rolls on as his worst stroke-play finish is just T-33 at Augusta. He splitting fairways, finding GIR and holing putts but he needed Kizzire to post his first top 10 of the season. Kizzire opened the season with solo second at Safeway but has only made five more cuts the rest of the year. His ball-striking numbers are frighteningly bad but his putter and short game came in handy this week.

Brooks Koepka & Chase Koepka (T-5): The angle for playing this team this week was Brooks was on fire and that held true. After his T-11 at Augusta and solo second at Valero, Koepka wasn’t going to need much help. He becomes the third member of the top five to have finished in the top 10 last week in San Antonio. His brother on the back of this top 10 will gain entry next week into the Wells Fargo Championship. Koepka (Chase) was given a sponsor’s exemption at Zurich to accompany his brother.

Bubba Watson & J.B. Holmes (T-5): Watson’s jet lag returning from China didn’t bother him and neither did not posting a top 25 in a stroke play ever on Tour this year. I guess he’s now graduated to non-traditional events since he was T-9 at WGC-Dell Match Play and T-5 this week. Holmes’ best finish in stroke play this year was T-12 in Mexico at the WGC-Mexico Championship with nothing else inside the top 20. #CuresWhatAils.

Angel Cabrera & Julian Etulain (T-5): The Argentinians played like it was the Presidents Cup and they were rewarded for it. When Cabrera didn’t fire on at Augusta I couldn’t convince myself this was the week he was going to find it. Etulain closed 81-75 at Valero last week and had one previous top 25 from 10 events on Tour.

Justin Thomas & Bud Cauley (T-5): The Bama boys rode the best-ball format into a back-door top five with 61 on Sunday. Thomas, the three-time winner on Tour this season, watched as his partner racked up 15 birdies in 36 holes in the best-ball format. That should NOT surprise any gamers as Cauley was entering the week off of top 10’s at Harbour Town and TPC San Antonio. The Jacksonville native will be a tasty pick in two weeks at THE PLAYERS if he doesn’t win this week at Wells Fargo. #ChooChoo.

Charley Hoffman & Nick Watney (T-5): Fine, I’ll say it: WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU LAST WEEK CHARLEY??? Last week is when you were supposed to rack up another top five, not this week! On further inspection, it was Watney, the hotter of the two players, who was making all the birdies this week. He’s slowly playing himself back into the fantasy conversation after missing most of last year with a back problem. In 11 events he’s made six cuts and are all in the top 35. #Noted.

 

What Happened to the Chalk??

 

Jason Day & Rickie Fowler (MC): Well, that was interesting. The MC by two shots as 29 pars in 36 holes isn’t going to cut it on a track like this.

Thomas Pieters & Daniel Berger (MC): All ham and no eggs makes a blah omelette as they missed the number by three shots. Neither one turned it up and got after it and it was so blah that they put a double on the card without finding the water.

Henrik Stenson & Justin Rose (MC):  This one stings. These two just needed a birdie on the par five No. 18 to advance to the weekend. They both stuck it in the drink. The end.

Justin Thomas & Bud Cauley (T-5): See above.

Louis Oosthuizen & Branden Grace (T-24): If Rose and Stenson didn’t debunk the “Cup” angle here then surely Grace and Oosti will. It’s not the same. They know it. You know it. The South Africans made the cut on the number and played well on Saturday but the deficit was too much to make up on Sunday.

Hideki Matsuyama & Hideto Tanihara (T-32): Another top 10 player in the OWGR whose team didn’t make enough noise. The countrymen gave three shots back to the field in alternate shot on Saturday and that was that.

Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer (4th): See above.

Russell Henley & Blayne Barber (MC):  73 on Thursday dug them a big hole and their 65 on Friday finished one short of the line.

Luke Donald & Jamie Lovemark (MC): Opening with 75 in an event where 27-under was the winning score doesn’t take much analysis.

Coming Next

Another week, another wrinkle!

Charlotte and Quail Hollow Club are off the rotation this year so the Wells Fargo Championship moves to Wilmington’s Eagle Point.

Quail Hollow Club is the host of the 2017 PGA Championship and will return as host in 2018.

 

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