Horses for Courses: 2021 Zurich Classic

There’s no “I” in team but there is an “I” in Zurich and Classic!

The return to New Orleans for the 2021 edition of the Zurich Classic welcomes back team golf to the schedule. In 2017 the event evolved into a partner’s game with 80, two-man teams playing best ball (four balls) and alternate shot (foursomes) to determine the champion over four rounds. 

RELATED:  Expert Picks

At 7,425 yards (Par-72), Pete Dye’s TPC Avondale has been run over in the best ball format but has held its own in the alternate shot. Plenty of 60s and 61s have littered the board in four balls so going low isn’t an option; it’s required. Conversely, 65 is the “record” for foursomes, set by 2019 winners Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer. Not very many sub-67s in that format either, nor rounds in the 60s. There has never been a round of foursomes in which more than eight teams have posted in the 60s in three editions.

The course will feature TifEagle Bermuda greens for the first time as they were replaced after the 2019 event. Thankfully there is plenty of rain and humidity in this part of the world so I wouldn’t expect them to be too firm or fast like most surfaces that are redone. Celebration Bermuda is now in the fairways and new bunkers will also help drain quicker if and when rain arrives. Water is in play on eight holes and 106 bunkers will need to be avoided. Rough at less than two inches for the third week running should encourage risk-reward recovery shots again.

This will be the fifth Pete Dye design used already in 2021 (TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, TPC Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Austin Country Club and Harbour Town) so everyone should be relatively comfortable. Aggressive lines are rewarded and so is proper iron play into the 5,225 square foot and tiered greens. No point leaving it short when your partner has four feet or less for par so give it a run! With 25-under the average winning score from three events, the formula isn’t complicated!

Defending champions Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm are part of the 80 team field this week competing for a share of the $7.4 million ($1,069,300 each for first place) and 400 FedExCup points each.

Recent Event Winners Stats

PlayerNo EventRyan Palmer & Jon RhamScott Piercy & Billy HorschelJonas Blixt & Cameron Smith
MOV 31Playoff
Runner-Up(s) Garcia-Fleetwood (not entered)Dufner-Pat PerezBrown-Kisner
Ages 42 & 2439 & 3133 & 23
Playing Together 2021 YESNo, Both EnteredNo, Smith Entered
Total Eagles 002
Total Birdies 282823
Total Bogeys 220
Doubles or Worse 02 Doubles0
Par-3 Scoring 2-underEven3-under
Par-4 Scoring 13-under11-under12-under
Par-5 Scoring 11-under11-under12-under

Recent Winners and Notables

2019: Ryan Palmer & Jon Rahm (-26, 262)

Set the tournament record for margin of victory winning by three shots. … Sat four shots back after 18 holes. … Set the 36-hole record on 15-under to lead by one. … Co-led after 54 holes by setting a tournament record on 23-under. … Posted the tournament record for foursomes with 65 in Round 2. … Palmer wins in his 11th start at the event and picks up his fourth top 10. … Rahm wins in his second. … First time as partners and are defending this year. … Palmer MC previous year with Jordan Spieth. … Rahm MC previous visit with Wesley Bryan. … Palmer entered on T28-MC-MC-T4 run. … Rahm cashed in the top 10 in eight of his last 10 including a top 10 the Masters.

Notables: * – new partner this year; teams highlighted below are also playing this year unless mentioned.

Only *Kyoung-Hoon Lee (T3), a rookie in 2019, returns from the podium in the last edition. … *Hank Lebioda (T5) hit the top five in his first visit. … David Hearn (T5) backed up his T10 from 2018. … Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Cameron Tringale and Roberto Castro (T5) first time together was a successful pairing. … Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (T5) have done everything but win this event. … Martin Laird and Nick Taylor (T9) run it back again this year. … Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney (T9) picked up their second top 10 in three tries. … *Scott Stallings (T13) was part of a team who signed for 61 and 62 in fourballs. … Defending champions Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy (T13) finished eight back but are not playing this year. … Lucas Glover and Chez Reavie (T18) opened with 62 and picked up their best result in three starts. … Branden Grace (T32) was one shot out of the lead after 54 holes after posting 61 before 80 on Sunday knocked him out. … Only eight of 39 teams on Sunday posted rounds in the 60s (foursomes). … Top 35 teams were double digits under par or better. … Rained 2.5 inches Thursday. … Cut was a tournament record 8-under.

2018: Scott Piercy & Billy Horschel (-22, 266)

Came from three shots off the 54-hole lead to win. … 67 Sunday was the low round of the day. … One of three bogey-free rounds of the day and just four in foursomes on the week. … 61 on Saturday. … Had to count two doubles and two bogeys in Round 2. … Highest winning score to date. … Horschel becomes the first player to win on his own ball and with a partner. … Horschel wins in his eighth appearance. … Piercy wins in his ninth. … Only top 10s here for both are wins. … Horschel rolled in on T11 and T5 in his previous two starts while Piercy MC the week before.


Jason Dufner and Pat Perez (T2) missed a playoff by a shot. Both return with new partners this year. … South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel (3rd) MC in 2019. … Brice Garnett and Chesson Hadley (T4) posted 61 on Saturday and will have new partners this year. … Tony Finau (6th) picked up his only check from three starts and played from the final group. … Former Purdue teammates Tyler Duncan and Adam Schenk (T7) are back this year. … Patrick Cantlay (T7) changes out Patrick Reed for Xander Schauffele. … Scotsman Martin Laird and Russell Knox (T7) are both back but separated. … Australian Greg Chalmers and Cameron Percy (T10) reunite. David Hearn (T10) improved on his T22 from last year. … Brendan Steele (T10)Troy Merritt (T10) and Tom Hoge (T10) all have new rides as well. … Lucas Glover and Chez Reavie (T22) opened with 60, co-low round of the week. … Xinjun Zhang also opened with 60 to share the first round lead but shot 80 in Round 2 to MC. … Andrew Putnam (T22) led after 36 holes by a shot, trailed by one after 54 holes. … 54-hole leaders Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (T15) fired 77 on Sunday. … Defending champions Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt MC. … Format changed days this year as alternate shot was moved to Friday and Sunday to cause more volatility. … Only seven rounds in the 60s on Sunday. … Cut was 5-under.

2017: Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith (-27, 261)

First team event on TOUR since 1981. … Won a playoff on the fourth hole. … Set tournament scoring record. … Only winning team still to make an eagle (2). … Bogey free for the week. … Led by FOUR after 54 holes. … Led by one after 36 holes. … One back after 18 holes. … First TOUR win for Smith, third for Blixt. … Smith wins in his second appearance, fifth for Blixt. … Blixt and Smith only top 10s at the event are their win. … Smith was T6 the previous week at Valero. … Blixt was T14 at Harbour Town in his last start. … Formats were foursomes Thursday/Saturday and fourballs Friday/Sunday.


Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (P2) closed with 60 to force the playoff. …Kelly Kraft and Kevin Tway (3rd) were 20-under in fourballs. … Ryan Palmer (T4) opened with 66, co-second lowest score in foursomes to date. … Jason Dufner (T5) has two top 10 finishes with two different partners, just like Martin Laird. … Former champion Bubba Watson and JB Holmes (T5) return with new partners this year. … Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney (T5) are still together. … Co-First Round leader Kyle Stanley (T29) returns. … Only five of 42 teams broke 70 in foursomes on Saturday. … Cut was 7-under.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

Par BreakersGolfer
 *Top 10 since 2017 or previous winner
3Xander Schauffele
5*Ryan Palmer
6Viktor Hovland
10*Tony Finau
11*Cameron Smith
14*Patrick Cantlay
15Sam Burns
16*Justin Rose
16Scottie Scheffler
20*Jon Rahm
26Harry Higgs
27Jason Kokrak
28Sungjae Im
28*Peter Malnati
30*Charley Hoffman
31Tom Hoge
33Max Homa
34*Cameron Tringale
Strokes Gained: Approach the GreenGolfer
 *Top 10 since 2017 or previous winner
5Matt Wallace
6Keegan Bradley
7Matthew NeSmith
8*Tony Finau
9Tyrrell Hatton
11*Jon Rahm
13Doug Ghim
14Matthew Wolff
16Chez Reavie
17*Charley Hoffman
18Lanto Griffin
19*Cameron Percy
24Tom Hoge
26Sam Burns
27Xander Schauffele
28Scott Stallings
31Roger Sloan
32Chris Kirk
33*Kelly Kraft
33*Bubba Watson
Strokes-Gained: PuttingGolfer
 *Top 10 since 2017 or previous winner
2*Louis Oosthuizen
3Brendon Todd
4*Chesson Hadley
7Jason Kokrak
8Xander Schauffele
10Kris Ventura
15*David Hearn
16*Peter Malnati
17*Cameron Smith
21Matt Jones
22Lanto Griffin
23Andrew Putnam
24Sungjae Im
26Sebastian Cappelen
27Brice Garnett
33James Hahn
35Rhein Gibson
30Harold Varner III

Horses for Courses

Player (Starts/Cuts Made)Top 10s Top 25sMost RecentRecent Others
Ryan Palmer (7/10)34Win (2019)Win (Rahm); MC (Spieth), 4th (Spieth)
Jon Rahm (1/2)11Win (2019)Win (Palmer), MC (Bryan), DNS
KH Lee (1/1)11T3 (2019)New partner 2021
David Hearn (10/10)37T5 (2019)T5, T10 (Power), T22 (DeLaet)
Kevin Kisner (5/7)23T5 (2019)T5, T15, P2 (Brown)
Cameron Tringale (7/10)35T5 (2019)2nd 2015; T7 2012; returns with Castro 
Hank Lebioda (1/1)11T5 (2019) New partner 2021
Martin Laird (3/6)23T9 (2019)4 of 8 rounds 64 or better with Partner
Charley Hoffman (10/12)35T9 (2019)T11 2016, T5 2014 in last two visits on own ball
Nick Watney (9/12)36T9 (2019)2007 winner; T9-T31-T5 (Charley Hoffman)
Peter Malnati (1/4)11T9 (2019)New partner this year
Billy Horschel (6/9)23Win (2018)2013 winner; T13 defense; only top 10s are wins
Scott Piercy (5/9)13Win (2018)T13 in defense
Jason Dufner (8/9)662 (2018)2012 winner; 2nd (Perez) 2018, T5 (Kizzire) 2017
Louis Oosthuizen (3/4)123 (2018)MC-3rd-T24 (Schwartzel)
Chesson Hadley (3/4)23T4 (2018)T8 2015, T20 2016
Tony Finau (1/4)116 (2018)3 of last 6 rounds 63 or better team game
Patrick Cantlay (2/3)12T7 (2018)MC-T7-T14 (Reed)
Troy Merritt (6/8)24T10 (2018)T22 (Streb) T10 (de Jonge) T24 (Streb); solo 3rd 2010
Kevin Tway (3/4)123 (2017)T13-MC-3rd with Kraft
Kelly Kraft (2/4)123 (2017)T13-MC-3rd with Tway
Bubba Watson (9/10)35T5 (2017)2011 Winner cashed 7 of 8 on his own ball; T5 Holmes 2017 best
JB Holmes (4/6)13T5 (2017)T34 (Watson), MC (Snedeker), T5 (Watson) plus T11, T13 on his own ball
Brian Stuard (5/7)13Win (2016)2016 champ plus T22 (Knox), T28 (Stroud), T11 (Knox)
Chris Kirk (2/6)12T6 (2016)T5 2016 but MC x 3 team game
Harold Varner III (1/4)11T8 (2016)MC last 3 years
Justin Rose (7/11)35Win (2015)2015 winner capped four straight T15 or better
Other NotablesTop 10sTop 25sMost RecentRecent Finishes
Byeong Hun An (1/3)11P2 (2016)0-2 Team Game
Robert Streb (4/6)13T2 (2014)T22-DNS-T24
Lucas Glover (11/12)36T4 (2013)Cashed 9 straight events; T18, T22, T39 all with Reavie
Matt Jones (9/9)25T6 (2011)T22-T19-T22

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