The old New Orleans Classic has gone through its share of changes, starting with the move away from town and the old Lakewood Country Club, across the river to English Turn where it had a successful 17-year run. Now the pros play at the TPC of Louisiana, a Pete Dye-Steve Elkington collaboration created out of what was once a swamp.
Tipping out at just over 7,500 yards long and with fairways that look wider than the Superdome, this is a bomber's paradise. It is also what architectural experts call a "second shot golf course." The greens average 5,000 square feet – gigantic for a New York apartment; tiny when you're hitting a 5-iron onto it. There are plenty of pot bunkers and water hazards, and if the wind blows, this could be a nine or 10-under week. If the conditions are calm, expect players to light up the birdie board.
Five to watch in the Big Easy include:
•Retief Goosen: Swing changes appear to be taking hold. Plus, the putter is working again.
•Bubba Watson: Wide landing areas are tailor made for big swingers, and nobody pounds it harder. He had a top-10at Bay Hill, and appears to have overcome some early-season putting problems.
•Steve Stricker: Highest ranked player in the field, and coming off a T-6 last week at Doral. He hits a lot of greens.
•Jim Furyk: Tied for second last week and is rolling putts better than he has in a year.
•Padraig Harrington: A week off after playing in Korea, this is the time of year when Harrington starts to shine. If the wind swirls, as it is prone to do in New Orleans in March, Paddy could have a good week.
Steve Eubanks is a bestselling author and former PGA golf professional.