Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Yards: 7,425 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Mini-verde Bermudagrass; 5,700 square feet on average
Rough: TifSport Bermudagrass at 2 inches
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Pete Dye (2003)
Winner’s Share: $1,188,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Jason Dufner defeated Ernie Els on the second playoff hole to win for the first time on TOUR.
Dates: April 25-28
Notes: The TPC Louisiana has been used for this tournament in 2005 and 2007 through last year. Any other historical data will not carry weight with me this week.
The TOUR makes its annual pilgrimage to New Orleans for the 54th time.
In seven events at TPC Louisiana, there have been FOUR first-time winners. Tim Petrovic (2005), Nick Wantey (2007), Andres Romero (2008) and Jason Dufner last year all have broken their duck in The Big Easy.
The winners on TOUR this season have been Johnson (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods THRICE (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32) and now G-Mac (33).
The young folks (30 and younger) have six victories; the 30-somethings now have nine victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins.
After winning the first 14 tournaments of the season, the last three have all been internationals. Since moving to TPC Louisiana in 2006, only Andres Romero has a victory for the international contingent.
Joining Romero in this year’s field are former champions Nick Watney (2007), Jerry Kelly (2009), Bubba Watson (2011) and Jason Dufner (2012). 2005 champion Tim Petrovic is on the alternate’s list.
Rank and File
As of Monday morning, just 13 of the top 50 in the OWGR are playing this week. #topheavy
TPC Louisiana was ranked the 39th-easiest of the 49 courses used in 2012 on TOUR. That’s not terribly surprising as Jason Dufner and Ernie Els both posted 19-under 269 and THREE players posted rounds of 64 last year, tying the course record. Greg Chalmers and Russell Knox went low in round two while Ryan Palmer tied their mark on Saturday. Over the last seven events, TPC Louisiana has been in the middle of the rankings on the most difficult courses each year. The toughest year it played, not surprisingly, was its inaugural event in 2005 when it ranked 20th most difficult of the 55 courses used that year.
Pete Dye courses are all the same but yet different. Dye tries to fool or trick the player into seeing things that might or might not be there based on the topography of the land. TPC Louisiana is defended by trees, sand, water and undulating greens. Players will face risk-reward shots and will have to avoid the water coming home. Looking at the number of first-time winners in this event tells me that experience is NOT a huge factor around this track.
This week, I’m looking for iron players to take me to the winner’s circle. The rough is only playing to two inches off the fairway so hit it as far you can and have a short iron in your hands to peg as many GIR as possible. With all the first-time winners here, that tells me that the green complexes are not that difficult to figure out. Want more proof? Dufner and Els aren’t exactly the first two names that jump to the top of your head when I say “great putters”. Neither is Bubba Watson. The more greens you hit, the more chances for birdies and with the average winning score around 15-under, plenty of those will help as well. I am not dismissing great putters/short gamers this week but they will have to be able to score as well as birdies will be the order of the day.
Let’s see who makes the cut!
Top 10, Plus One
Justin Rose: He’s 21st in ball-striking and second in scoring. He’s a premium player who hasn’t finished out of the top 25 in five events this season. He destroys par-fives and can really scramble. He opened with 72 here last year before racking up 67-68-68 on the weekend. I believe he’s figured it out.
Bubba Watson: He’s hit the top five twice, including his 2011 win, in six starts here in New Orleans. His only finish outside of the top 18 this season was last week at the Masters. That’s quite understandable and I feel that Watson will be more than happy not to be the center of attention this week. He’ll enjoy bombing away and is fifth in birdie average. He also leads the TOUR in par four birdie percentage and is 12th in birdie-or-better conversions.
Keegan Bradley: He’s made 10 of 11 cuts this season and the only thing that is missing from his 2013 CV is a victory. Before his Saturday 82 at Augusta, he had finishes of T4, seventh, T3 and T10 so he’s close. He’s another player who feasts on par fives as he’s 67-under (third on TOUR) this season.
Billy Horschel: Last week proved, again, that Horschel is cut from a different cloth. Early in the week, he Tweeted that he was making an emergency trip to see his swing coach Todd Anderson. THAT’S ALWAYS A GOOD THING ON TOURNAMENT WEEK. According to Horschel’s Twitter, Anderson fixed his grip and lo and behold, ANOTHER top 10 for him on a course that isn’t for rookies. That’s three in a row if you’re scoring at home. I have lost count of how many cuts in a row he has made. Automatic.
Rickie Fowler: He’s getting better each year TOUR and each year in New Orleans. He was T26 in 2011 and T10 last year as played all four rounds under par. He’s ninth on TOUR in birdie-or-better conversion percentage and his short game is lights out.
Freddie Jacobson: He’s made seven cuts on the bounce. He’s hit the top 25 in all of them, including the Masters. He’s eighth in strokes gained-putting and seventh in scoring. I’m going to stop typing now.
Jason Dufner: The 2012 champ’s history around here is staggeringly good but his play in 2013 has been staggeringly indifferent and that’s bad news for gamers. We like predictability! He only has three rounds of his last 14 in the 60s and has zero top 10s. I’m hoping he remembers where he is at when he tees it up on Thursday as he’s not been out of the top 10 in his last four starts at TPC Louisiana.
Brendon de Jonge: I cannot ignore his last three events where he’s finished T10, T22 and T9 last week at RBC. de Jonge plays EVERY week (minus the majors) and this is start No. 14 on the season. He’s cashed in 11 of the previous 13 and six of those have been within the top 25. He finished T26 and T18 the last two times around TPC Louisiana so he’s trending in the proper direction.
Charley Hoffman: He was positioned to win last week at RBC as he entered the final round with a two shot lead but he “Rickie Fowler’ed” it on Sunday firing 77 to finish T6. Hoffman now has finishes of T6, T3 and T20 in his last three outings and cannot be omitted this week. He’s made four cuts in a row here as well but it’s his current form that is trump for me this week.
Ryan Palmer: One of three players to tie the course record last year, this course sets up great for Palmer. He hits it a mile and hits plenty of GIR so he’ll have his chances this week. His two best finishes of the year were Humana (T6) and WMPO (T5) in tournaments where many birds are necessary. Nice fit this week.
Jimmy Walker: He’s second on TOUR with 19 consecutive cuts, including 10 in a row to start 2013. He kills it off the tee, hits plenty of GIR and is a slick putter. He’s in the top 10 in too many categories to list here. His work with Butch Harman has produced everything except the elusive victory. He closed the weekend here last year 68-68.
Scott Piercy: He has one round under par in his last 11 but this week should get Piercy back on track as he was T13 here last year. Piercy weighs in at 10th in birdie-or-better conversion as he takes it deep and can really putt.
Jeff Overton: After MC at Bay Hill Overton has rebounded with T27 at SHO and T7 at Valero in his next two outings. Overton was looking for his first TOUR win here in 2010 but his Sunday 66 wasn’t enough to catch or pass Jason Bohn’s 67. Overton fired 67 on Friday and 65 on Sunday here last year so I have no problem including him in here this week.
Nick Watney: Here’s what I like: He began the Masters with 78 yet found a way to finish T13. This shows that he’s grinding and results should be heading his way. I’ve been high on Watney for years but his putter has gone so cold, it’s been hard to endorse him recently. His ball-striking, on the other hand, gives me reason to hope. He’ll hit plenty of GIR so that should give him ample chances. Plus, this was the site of his first-career win so that should get him fired up this week.
Thorbjorn Olesen: TBO showed absolutely no fear in his maiden voyage around Augusta two weeks ago as he finished T6. He’s plenty long and has showed he can handle golf in the states. Before the Masters, he finished T7 at Bay Hill. Two tough courses. Two large results. I’m sold.
Cameron Tringale: He’s played here three times and has finished T7, T18 and T28. He’s posted exactly one round over par in those outings. He’s 10th in GIR and 52nd in strokes gained-putting and those numbers should put him in contention more times than not! He’s also 23rd in the all-around and 16th in par five performance.
Chris Kirk: After missing the cut at Humana, Kirk has run off seven straight weekend performances, including solo second at AT&T and three other top 25s. He’s sixth in scoring average and is automatic on the greens. He’s another that we are just waiting to break out with a TOUR win on the regular schedule.
John Rollins: His worst finish here in five events is T26. His best finish was last year, T7, as he opened 66-67 but sputtered on Sunday with 72. He’s 13th in GIR and seventh in the all-around ranking. He’s hit the top 25 six times in eight cuts made this season.
Charles Howell III: He’s made the weekend in nine of 11 events this year and the only two he’s missed have been difficult driving courses (Riviera and Harbour Town). He’s never missed the cut in this city and was T2 here in 2009.
Jordan Spieth: I saw on Twitter this week that young Spieth has made more in his career in seven events than Gary McCord made in his entire career. I know, I know, it is apples and oranges BUT it still made me chortle. Anyhow, there is NOTHING funny about Spieth’s game as he racked up his third top 10 in five cuts made in 2013 last week at RBC (T9). His two worst finishes are in his home state of Texas. Go figure.
Graham DeLaet: He’s second on TOUR in ball-striking and finished T4 here last year. He had made six cuts in a row before MC last week at Hilton Head so he’s been playing well.
Camilo Villegas: He’s been T18 or better in three of his last four starts so I’m going to take a look this week. He had it going here last year before his 74 on Saturday took away his momentum. He regrouped on Sunday to finish T18. He’s 29th in the all-around this year and is 25th in GIR.
Off the Beaten Path
Either “horse-for-course” or guys off the radar
Chris Stroud: In six events here, he’s racked up four finishes in the top 26 including T5 in 2007. His confidence should be sky-high after posting T6 last week at Hilton Head.
Ken Duke: In five trips to TPC Louisiana, Duke has been all-or-nothing. He was T2 in 2007, T21 in 2010 and T7 last year and missed the cut in his other two outings. In his last four events on TOUR, he’s banged out T18, T31, MC and T8.
Greg Chalmers: Tied the course record 64 in round two here last year so I would assume he’s quite comfortable around these parts. He’s on this list because he WD last week with a left hand injury. His finishes at TPC Louisiana are T30, T8, fifth and T24 in his last five. The risk will be a possible WD or DNS.
R.H. Lee: He’s finished T13 and T9 in his last two events. He’s not very long but he hits tons of GIR and can putt it so that’s his strength. He has four finishes of T13 of better this year. There are MUCH WORSE choices this week.
John Merrick: He’s played the last six events in New Orleans and has never missed the cut. He’s also already won this year so he should be playing under zero pressure.
Take It Deep
Jerry Kelly: He’s the 2009 champion but his best finish since that victory is T67. He’s MC the other two times. That being said, he was solo fifth last week for his first top 10 in some time and he should be excited to get back to New Orleans, the scene of his first victory.
Jason Kokrak: He finished ninth at SHO and T15 at Valero on the Texas swing on long courses. He fought it last week on the tight Harbour Town course as he MDF. He’ll be happy to see a resort course this week! Last year he played three rounds below par before a Sunday 74 stalled him out. Thank me later.
Nicholas Thompson: Stretching here, but hang with me for a second. If you are in a deep, weekly draft, such as I am, its guys like this that can help you late in the draft. Thompson’s last three finishes here are T7 (2010), T24 (2009) and T4 (2008). He’s also 9 for 11 in 2013. SHHHHHHH.
David Mathis: WE HAVE FOUND THIS WEEK’S WINNER. Mathis has played 11 events this season and his best finish is T41. He’s missed six straight cuts entering the week but he’s a true horse-for-course. He was T10 last year and T8 in 2011 in his only two appearances. Sure, why the hell not?
Allenby: Copy and Paste.
Eric Meierdierks: Eight played. Six cuts. Best finish T50.
Scott Stallings: After beginning the season T13, MC, T4, Stallings has missed five of eight and his best finish is T29. He fired 80-77 here last year. No, thanks.
J.J. Henry: After opening with T13, his best finish in nine events is T39. In his last five events here he’s MC three times and finished T52 and T57. He did finish T5 in 2005, the first year.
Rookie of the Week Last Week
I keep an eye on the youngin’s each week to see who is making the most noise.
Sony: Russell Henley WIN
Humana: David Lingmerth P2
Farmers: Brad Fritsch T9
WMPO: James Hahn T16
AT&T: James Hahn T3
NTO: Luke Guthrie T21
WGC-Match Play: Russell Henley 2nd round
Honda: Luke Guthrie 3rd
WGC-Cadillac: Russell Henley T28
Puerto Rico: Jordan Spieth 2nd
Tampa Bay: Jordan Spieth T7; Shawn Stefani T7; Ben Kohles T7
Arnold Palmer: Ben Kohles T14
Shell Houston Open: Robert Streb T22
Valero Texas Open: Ben Kohles T37
Masters: Russell Henley MC (not many to choose from last week!)
RBC Heritage: Russell Henley T6
SEASON TOTAL: $2,419,750
HTOC: Steve Stricker (2nd; $665,000)
Sony: Charles Howell III (T3; $324,800)
Humana: Tim Clark (MC)
Farmers: Rickie Fowler (T6; $204,350)
WMPO: Jason Dufner (MC)
AT&T Pebble: Hunter Mahan (T16; $94,250)
Northern Trust: Bill Haas (T3; $343,200)
WGC-Match Play: Charl Schwartzel (T33; $46,000)
Honda: Lee Westwood (T9; $156,000)
WGC-Cadillac Championship: Matt Kuchar (T35; $68,500)
Tampa Bay: Jim Furyk (T7; $148,892)
Bay Hill: Sergio Garcia (WD after three rounds)
Shell Houston: Jimmy Walker (T50; $14,838)
Valero: Cameron Tringale (MC)
Masters: Phil Mickelson (T54; $18,320)
RBC Heritage: Luke Donald (T3; $336,400)
Zurich Classic: Bubba Watson
GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge
(I play as “Glass” for all fantasy games)
Mike Glasscott (Rank: 6,056; $9,034,688)
Group 1: Bubba Watson
Group 2: Billy Horschel
Group 3: Ken Duke
Group 4: Stuart Appleby
Ryan O’Sullivan (Rank: 6,654; $8,909,911)
Group 1: Justin Rose
Group 2: Billy Horschel
Group 3: Jordan Spieth
Group 4: James Driscoll
Ned Brown (Rank: 6,136; $9,014,263) “Pure Spin”
Group 1: Justin Rose
Group 2: Billy Horschel
Group 3: Jordan Spieth
Group 4: Stuart Appleby
Rob Bolton (Rank: 11,013; $8,043,357)
Group 1: Justin Rose
Group 2: Billy Horschel
Group 3: Ken Duke
Group 4: John Peterson
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Ned also provides us with his GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge selections as well!
Bubba Watson-- Last time out he tied for 50th place at the Masters, but he really didn't play all that bad. His recent history at the Zurich Classic is good, with at T18 last year and a championship in '11.
Jason Dufner-- It's been a dull season for Dufner, but he has a great record at the Zurich with a T9 in '09, a T7 in '10, a T3 in '11 and a championship last year.
Charles Howell III, Brendon de Jonge, Boo Weekley
Justin Rose-- He came into the Masters with three consecutive top 10s, so his T25 at the Masters was a bit of a disappointment. His recent record in New Orleans is a bit spotty, but he did manage a T10 here last year.
Keegan Bradley—He also was very hot going into the Masters, with four consecutive top 10s, but he disappointed with a T50 result. He doesn't have a long history at the Zurich, so playing him this week is about his hot streak before the Masters.
Charley Hoffman-- He was leading last week at the RBC Heritage going into the final round, but his red hot putter cooled down and he slipped into a T6 result. Still, it was the second consecutive top 10 finish, so playing him this week is about trying to ride the hot hand.
Nick Watney-- I think this spot is a tossup between Ernie Els and Nick Watney. I'm going right now with Watney because of his T13 at the Masters and that he is a past champion ('07) of the Zurich Classic.
Ernie Els, K.J. Choi, Cameron Tringale, David Toms, Jimmy Walker
Billy Horschel-- He had a rough two final holes at the RBC Heritage, but he still finished tied for ninth place, which gives him three consecutive top 10 finishes. His history here is fair, so he is all about playing the hot golfer.
Rickie Fowler-- Fowler was playing well going into the Masters, but he had a tough couple of rounds at Augusta which resulted in a T38 finish. Fowler has made both of his cuts in New Orleans and he did tie for tenth place last year.
Thorbjorn Olesen, Jeff Overton, Marcel Siem, Jordan Spieth
Points last week: 179
Points this year: 2,641
Overall Ranking: (513; 99th percentile)
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Zurich Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/GlassWGCL) on Twitter.