The Confidence Factor: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Year No. 2 of the partners event at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale.

Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt are back to defend their title but will have to navigate 10 of the top 15 players in the OWGR.com rankings and a benign forecast.

With walk-up music being introduced for the first time on TOUR, I’ve added a bit to the preview this week.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans

TPC Louisiana

Avondale, Louisiana

 

TPC Louisiana Cheat Sheet

Yards: 7,425
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Miniverde Bermuda; 5,225 sq. feet
Stimpmeter: 12′
Rough: TifSport Bermudagrass at 2 inches
Bunkers: 107
Water Hazard: 5
Architects: Pete Dye with Player Consultant Steve Elkington
Purse: $7.2 million/$1.037 each winner; 400 FEC Points each winner
Defending Champions: Cameron Smith & Jonas Blixt (-27)

 

Notes:

  • 80, two-man teams; top 35 teams and ties will make the cut.
  • Round 1 and Round 3: best ball.
  • Round 2 and Round 4: alternate shot.
  • Second year of this format at this event. The best ball and alternate shot rounds have been flipped for this year.

 

2017-18 Winners

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
Safeway Open Brendan Steele
CIMB Classic Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC Champions Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms Ryan Armour*
Shriners Hospitals for Children Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba Patton Kizzire*
The RSM Classic Austin Cook**
Sentry TOC Dustin Johnson
Sony Open Patton Kizzire (2)
CB Challenge Jon Rahm
Farmers Insurance Open Jason Day
WMPO Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Ted Potter, Jr.
Genesis Open Bubba Watson
Honda Classic Justin Thomas
WGC-Mexico Championship Phil Mickelson
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
Arnold Palmer Invitational Rory McIlroy
WGC-Match Play Bubba Watson (2)
Corales Puntacana Resorts Brice Garnett*
Houston Open Ian Poulter
Masters Patrick Reed
RBC Heritage Satoshi Kodaira*
Valero Texas Open Andrew Landry*

 

The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM and contains plenty of angles on the track and those who have aced this exam.

Please read this!

Previous Champions

*-playoff

Year & Champion Winning Total
2017: Cameron Smith & Jonas Blixt -27*
2016: Brian Stuard -15* (rain-shortened 54-hole event)
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

 

Gamers, this tournament moved to TPC Louisiana in 2005 but the 2006 edition was played at English Turn (Hurricane Katrina damage). The is the second year for the team format but the first year for walk-up music.

 

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record (Team): -27
Tournament Record (Individual): -22, Rose, 2015
Course Record (Individual): 62, Ben Martin
Course Record Best Ball: 60, Brown & Kisner, Goosen & Van Aswegen
Course Record Alternate Shot: 66, Palmer & Spieth, Stanley & Ruffels
Defending Champion(s): None
Multiple Winners: None
First TOUR Win: 9 of the last 14
First Win in First Appearance: Andres Romero (2008) and Smith
Low Round Last Year: See above
Rookies of Note Last Year: N/A
International Winners: Three of the last four events
Odd Fact: The reigning champion has never collected better than T18 defending the title.
Facts: 6 of top 10 teams return for 2018

 

The Field

Quick thought:

The order of play this year will TOTALLY change how this week goes in my  opinion.

WHY?

Simple. With best ball being used in the first round, teams will relax and post great scores. Last year, they were FORCED to post great scores if they struggled in alternate shot. When guys don’t have to play well they usually do so I’d expect super-low ones on Thursday. Alternate shot is naturally a grind and making pars all day aren’t going to hurt. It’s not a format that encourages birdies or coming-from-behind results.

Favorites

in order of preference for this week and this tournament plus their choice of walk-up music (Editor’s Note: This was written before all teams turned in their choices for songs):

Patrick Reed & Patrick Cantlay: After finishing T14 last year, the duo returns this season both having a win to their names. They both rank inside the top 30 in SG: total and both make a TON of birdies.

SONG: Eye of the Tiger (Survivor). Simple, to-the-point and no-nonsense just like this pairing. Rocky meant business so will these two.

Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer: Somebody lost a bet to somebody somewhere in Dallas and the bet was they had to play in this event last year. The pairing turned into the T-lowest alternate shot score in last year’s competition and a fourth-place finish. Spieth’s scalding hot finish at the Masters isn’t going to turn many away but his partner isn’t as hot as he was this time last year. SONG: N/A. If it was up to Spieth, it would be Dave Loggins’ instrumental from Augusta.

Justin Thomas & Bud Cauley: JT had a front row seat to watch his buddy roast Augusta National Sunday for 17 holes so I’m guessing he’ll be out to return the favor. Cauley is one of my fantasy favorites and has rattled off three in a row T23 or better. The Alabama alums were T5 last year with five bogeys and a double!

SONG: Circle of Life, non-Elton John edition. Seems a bit tame but their mascot at Alabama was an elephant so I get the jungle theme.

Jon Rahm & Wes Bryan: Ham and eggs of the highest order might turn out to be the perfect pairing. Rahm stayed with Bryan the week leading into the Masters and they played a ton during that time. They’ll be miles ahead of any new pairings who haven’t had the chance to get to know each other. What Bryan can’t provide off the tee he’ll clean up around the greens and Rahm is a boss.

SONG: DNA (Kendrick Lamar). It’s hardly a surprise rap was the choice. Rahm has told the story plenty of times about how listening to rap music helped him improve/learn English after arriving from Spain.

Bubba Watson & Matt Kuchar: All five tools covered easily in this group. Watson has won here and Kuchar will keep the team room light and breezy. These guys make tons of birdies and that’s the recipe this week. SONG: N/A; Just go ahead and use the Golf Boyz video. It’s best for all involved.

Jimmy Walker & Sean O’Hair: They played the final round last week together and O’Hair won by a shot with 66, the lowest round of the day. O’Hair played the weekend in 13-under while Walker was 10-under. Sometimes it’s not worth over-thinking these things. SONG: N/A. I mean, if we have a deadline for entering or WD, let’s have the music turned in as well people!

 

Next Tier

Just missed; no particular order of preference

Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy: The 2013 champ picked up his first win on TOUR here and followed up his T5 at Harbour Town, a Pete Dye track, with T11 last week. Piercy MC on the number last week after T24 and T16 in his previous two. #HawtSawce.

SONG: Young Forever (Jay-Z). Cool enough choice to not be considered old even though you are in the eyes of the youth today.

Sergio Garcia & Rafael Cabrera-Bello: The commonality should be great here as will the pride. Both have struggled lately but a new format at a new track should wipe the slate clean. These guys roll out of bed pounding GIR and will have plenty of chances to get a putter or two heated up.

SONG: The Best (Tina Turner). I feel like they were asked to spin a wheel or picked a song out of a hat. Dire.

Charley Hoffman & Nick Watney: Watney is barreling into the week on nine paydays in a row with the best of the bunch coming last week at VTO (T20). Gamers will overreact to Hoffman’s dud last week at the same event but he had been playing well leading into VTO. They’ll look to improve on T5 from last year.

SONG: California Love (Tupac). This song was hot when these dudes were in high school/college so they’re not “forcing” it.

Chesson Hadley & Brice Garnett: Shhhh. Hadley is hot, ballin’ and scoring like crazy. Garnett has been known over the years to make birdies for fun. He’s also won in the last month. SONG: N/A. I’ll be you five dollars that Hadley is angling for the Bojangles jingle…

Steve Stricker & Jerry Kelly: Cheese heads on TOUR as they will partner for the second week in a row after finishing in the top 10 at the Champions TOUR event last week. They play and contend in all of these but there is some stout competition right in front of them to deal with. SONG: As Good as I Once Was (Toby Keith). Yep. Nailed it.

Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson: Golf isn’t played in a vacuum so don’t play fantasy golf like it is! On paper, this team looks unbeatable but that was hardly the case last year. They are back for round two and will be looking to put last year behind them as they MC by a shot. SONG: Gold (Spandau Ballet). If Stenson would have had the choice of song it would have been from Abba, obviously. To the gold medal winner go the spoils.

 

Off the Beaten Path

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

Brooks Koepka & Marc Turnesa: I hate riding guys on their first start back from injury and that’s Koepka this week. Last year he played with his brother and cashed T5 so I’m not worried about his partner. I think this week is a great fit to get back at because the format and course doesn’t suggest a train wreck happening. Turnesa will turn guys off but the Jupiter Mafia is strong.

SONG: Drops of Jupiter (Train). Oh wait, that’s my choice FOR them…

Louis Oosthuizen & Charl Schwartzel: This is not the Presidents Cup or World Cup of Golf but these two have played plenty of times in this format. Schwartzel’s 67 after his 79 at Harbour Town will give the optimists hope.

SONG: The other South African duo went with Africa by Toto. I would hope these guys would go with Paul Simon’s Graceland. Too obvious? Make your own list!

Tommy Fleetwood & Chris Paisley: I’d take Fleetwood if he was playing with you, gentle reader. Paisley’s MC last week came after a month on the sidelines so I’ll chalk it up to a rust buster. This will be his third tournament on TOUR greens so he should be more acclimated.

SONG: No-brainer here as it would be Albatross by…Fleetwood Mac.

Daniel Berger & Gary Woodland: There are two ways to look at this week for struggling players.

1.) SWEET, NEW FORMAT, CTRL-ALT-DEL is exactly what’s needed!

2.) Dude stinks right now so I’m out.

There’s plenty of balance and talent here so I’m in Group 1.

SONG: Forever (Drake). You would think they played last week at Valero where the rounds took that amount of time!

Sam Burns & William McGirt: Anything that Sam Burns is doing right now deserves a look. McGirt should be an excellent steadying factor in this group with the young 21-year old. SONG: Callin’ Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks. The kid from Shreveport won’t lose any fans with that one.

Byeong-Hun An & Kevin Na: The palidrome pairing will be hoping for 66’s, not 77’s. An almost won here two years ago and has been on fire lately. Na’s short game is even more valuable this week. SONG: Make ’em say Uhh by Master P. Remember when Master P was trying out for an NBA team? Dead talented that fella!

 

Fades:

Kevin Kisner & Scott Brown: Kisner was second at Match Play and T7 last time out at Harbour Town so he’s the least of my worries. His partner has been dire. His last round in the 60’s was 10 events ago. They will be over-valued because of their finish last year. Brown was posting scores this time last year and was second at Riviera.

SONG: Slippery by Migos. I reached out to my buddy and all-things-Atlanta expert @ZachOsterman and he said “it bangs”. Like a rusty screen door folks! Let’s just say they won’t be showing the video of that song at the first tee!

Jason Dufner & Pat Perez: The veterans know exactly what it takes to get by this week. They’re both entering on less-than-stellar form and might just enjoy the event more than the golf.

SONG: Dufner was seen wearing an Austin City Limits hat earlier this season so this choice could be ANYTHING!

Chez Reavie & Lucas Glover: They both sit in the top 31 in ball-striking but SOMEBODY gotta make a putt for par! SONG: For Whom the Bell Tolls. Wait, that’s Hemingway! Now we’re talkin’!

 

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

 

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