Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Mini-verde Bermudagrass with Poa trivialis; 5,700 square feet on average.
Rough: Tif-sport Bermudagrass at 2”
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Pete Dye (2003)
Winner’s Share: $1,224,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Billy Horschel held off D.A. Points to win by one shot for his first TOUR victory.
Dates: April 24-27
Notes: 155 players this week with the top 70 and ties making the cut.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the 19 of 23 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every and now Matt Kuchar have cashed for the red, white and blue. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have accounted for the other four victories. We’re still waiting for Europe to hit the board. Let’s hope they’re not building this up for the majors and Ryder Cup.
Matt Jones joined Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season with his victory over Kuchar at the SHO. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had six in 23 events so far in 2014. Ben Martin gave it a shot this week but finished just short (T3).
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, won over the last three weeks before Watson chalked up win No. 2 of the season. Matt Kuchar, 35, joins this list this week as he racks up his seventh career win.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board.
The Old Guys were led by Jim Furyk who was right in the action after 66 on Friday but his 71-70 saw him drop to T7. John Senden is lonely as he’s the only 40-something to lift the trophy this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
The TOUR returns to New Orleans for the 55th edition of the Zurich Classic.
Gamers, this tournament has been held at TPC Louisiana in 2005, 2007-2013. Any other historical data is just that, historical.
Since moving to TPC Louisiana in 2005, there have been FIVE first time winners in just eight events. Tim Petrovic (2005), Nick Watney (2007), Andres Romero (2008), Jason Dufner (2012) and Billy Horschel last year lifted their first trophies on TOUR here.
Romero is the only player to win on their maiden voyage around TPC Louisiana.
Petrovic and Romero have posted the “highest” winning score at 13-under-par, 275. Billy Horschel set the tournament record last year by posting 20-under, 268.
The course record at TPC Louisiana is 64 and that’s what Horschel closed with on Sunday to set the tournament record last year. Russell Knox, Greg Chalmers and Ryan Palmer, who are also in the field this week, shot 64 here in 2012.
In two of the last three editions, the tournament record has been set as Jason Dufner and Ernie Els both posted 269 in 2012 followed by Horschel’s 268 last year. Horschel, on Sunday, made six birdies in a row. Six. On Sunday.
In two of the last three editions, the winner has emerged from a playoff as Bubba Watson defeated Webb Simpson in 2011 and Dufner defeated Els in 2012.
No champ has defended and only once has the defender finished inside the top 20 since moving to TPC Louisiana.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14 season. Only Reed has a chance to equal Walker’s three wins as he’s the only one of this triumvirate that is playing this week.
This is the last chance to hit the OWGR top 50 and gain entry into THE PLAYERS. Next week, only the WINNER will move on to Sawgrass.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Carlos Franco (remember him!?!) was the last player to defend his title in 2000. Since it wasn’t played at TPC Louisiana and he’s not playing, this will win you a bar bet and that’s it.
2005: Tim Petrovic -13 (not entered in 2014)
2007: Nick Watney -15
2008: Andres Romero --13
2009: Jerry Kelly -14
2010: Jason Bohn -18
2011: Bubba Watson -15
2012: Jason Dufner -19
2013: Billy Horschel -20
Inside the Ropes
The TOUR sashays into the New Orleans area this week for the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana. For the second week in a row the players on TOUR will face a Pete Dye design but this one will be just a little different than the one they saw last week at Harbour Town.
With help from New Orleans native and former TOUR pro Kelly Gibson and multiple major champion Steve Elkington, Pete Dye’s TPC Louisiana fits right in to the New Orleans’ way of life: Easy. Sure, there are the trademark visual tricks and tiered greens but at the end of the day this is a resort course designed with average player in mind.
TOUR players start to lick their chops when they see only two inches of rough, wide fairways and the Stimpmeter rolling at 11’ and that’s what they’ll get this week. Dye works in his usual doglegs, waste bunkers and water but the last two years around this track have seen the tournament record broken by two, first-time winners. As I also pointed out earlier, five of the eight winners here have been first-timers so that tells gamers that it’s not very hard to adapt around here and course history is hardly at the top of the list this week.
D.A. Points made TWO bogeys last year and did not win the tournament.
Who makes only two bogeys at a PGA TOUR event?
Who makes only TWO bogeys at a TOUR event and DOESN’T win???
This week, I’m looking for guys who are excellent iron players because Dye courses are notoriously second-shot courses. Unlike Harbour Town where accuracy was rewarded, there is plenty of room to blast driver over this 7,400 yard track because of the light rough. With four par fives and a 16-under as the average winning score, gamers will hold on tight as these conditions open the field even wider this week.
Call to Order
Yahoo! group in ( )
1. Justin Rose (B): He’s 25-under in his last eight rounds in The Big Easy and his shoulder looks to finally be healed. If ball-striking is one of the main components, it’s no wonder why he’s on this list. He’ll be a popular choice in Group B in Yahoo! because everyone will have plenty of starts to burn on him. I’ll join the party as well.
2. Rickie Fowler (A): Whatever Butch Harmon is teaching, Fowler is adapting to as evidenced by his solo sixth in Houston backed up by his T5 at Augusta. Obviously Fowler has plenty of talent but perhaps all he needed was some direction as he spun his wheels the last two years. His back-to-back top 10s are the first time he’s done that since his WIN (Wells Fargo), T2 (THE PLAYERS) and T5 (Colonial). He only made four bogeys in Houston.
3. Graham DeLaet (B): He’s nine of 11 this season and six of those have gone for top 25s. I’m throwing out his visit to Augusta but I will focus on his last two before that as he finished T8 in Tampa and T19 in Houston. Everyone, including you and me, believes that GDL should win sooner than later and this venue should fit him like a glove. He was T4 in 2012 and T47 last year and has played seven of his last eight rounds here under par. Add that he’s currently No. 1 in ball-striking on TOUR and it sounds even better.
4. Ryan Palmer (C): With finishes of P2 and T7 in two of his last three events, the Texan has been flying in 2014. He adds two more top 10s and that makes four out of seven in 2014 that have hit the top 10. He shares the course record here with 64 and has one round over par in his last 12. He’s sixth in birdie average on TOUR and destroys par fours and fives.
5. Matt Every (B): He’s third in birdie average, third in rounds in the 60s and third with par five birdie or better leaders. He’s also sixth in total putting. Entering the Masters where he MC, he carded finishes of T6, T24, T8 and WIN.
6. Keegan Bradley (B): He showed flashes of brilliance at the API before a Sunday 72 put the brakes on any chance to win. Gamers will ready to pounce in Houston and Augusta and Bradley laid two proper eggs. He still makes enough birdies and in a limited field, he sticks out like a sore thumb. A week of banging birdies should cure what ails him.
7. Billy Horschel (B): After finishing in the top 10 in GIR the last two weeks with absolutely nothing to show for it, Horschel returns to the scene of his only TOUR victory this week. He led the field in pars at Hilton Head last week but didn’t make any birdies on the weekend. He also led the field in driving accuracy. He changed putters before Harbour Town and finished almost last in both putting categories. I’ll take my chances on his ball-striking this week and that he enjoys par five scoring.
8. Patrick Reed (A): There’s no way, current form be damned, that I’m leaving a two-time winner this season off the list this week in this field. He went a bit low earlier this season when playing easy courses so I would expect more of the same this week. He’s in the top 10 in the all-around ranking and is T26 or better in par four, five and all birdie or better conversions.
9. Chris Stroud (C): He’s currently 12th in scoring average and 15th in birdie average so that will come in handy this week. I don’t get caught up much in what Stroud has done or did in the past as his best golf is in front of him. This will be his eight consecutive start at TPC Louisiana and four of those are T26 or better. He has missed two cuts but only three of his 30 rounds are over par.
10. Freddie Jacobson (B): After missing back-to-back cuts at Pebble and Riviera, The Junkman has been on fire. In the five subsequent starts, he’s rattled off T12, T20, T10, T16 and T19 and that’s with exactly ONE final round under 70. He’s third in strokes gained-putting and second in total putting. His only victory on TOUR was at The Travelers where he won firing 20-under.
11. Kevin Stadler (A): The fifth-leading ball-striking and birdie machine finished T8 here last season which included a round of 65. He sits eighth in birdie average this season and he’ll need to rack up a few to find another top 10. He made 22 of them here last year.
12. Charles Howell III (A): Runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2009 plus a T13 in 2011 should put Chucky Three Sticks on the radar this week. He makes plenty of birdies and fillets par fives. He’s also fifth in GIR.
Russell Knox: He’s another who shares the course record 64 and his came in the second round of 2012. He’s 12 of 14 on the season and is just as steady as they come. He’s already popped a 63 this season at Honda where he finished a career-best P2. He’s played five weekends on the bounce and was T9 last week at Harbour Town.
Boo Weekley: Everyone hops on him every year at Harbour Town and is disappointed when he craps out but he actually has been more consistent at TPC Louisiana. His last four starts over the last five years have seen him finish T13, T10, MC and T6 last year after he opened with 65.
John Senden: His ball-striking is his best known quality but it’s his putter that has been cashing the checks this season. He’s currently 20th in strokes gained and 18th in total putting. He’s fifth on TOUR in par five performance and his confidence is through the roof with a victory at Tampa plus T8 at the Masters.
Cameron Tringale: He had played 10 weekends on the bounce before MC last week at HHI. Tringale was trending in the right direction at TPC Louisiana before his MC last year. But, in 14 rounds he’s failed to break par once. Hmmmmmmmmmmm…
J.B. Holmes: He’s made five cuts on the bounce and three of his last four have been T25 or better. His last time at TPC Louisiana he finished T13 with four rounds below par. He’s long and is getting ready to pop.
Steve Marino: In his first tournament since November of last year, Marino quietly finished with five birdies en route to 68 on Sunday and has a T5 under his belt in New Orleans. He’s calculated late roster flier.
Horses for Courses/Long Shots
Their recent form keeps them from the lists above
Lucas Glover: He’s made five cuts from 15 events this season but he LOVES TPC Louisiana. In six events he’s rattled off T3, T4, T8 and T19 along with MC and T66. He led after 36 and 54 holes last year before that T4 finish.
Padraig Harrington: He has no top 25s in eight starts this season but he’s had past success on this Dye course. In two events he’s 23-under with all eight rounds under par. Those events were in 2006 and 2008 so please proceed with caution THIS week!
Ernie Els: The Big Easy in The Big Easy almost sounds too good to be true but he does enjoy this layout. Just two years ago he battled Jason Dufner in a playoff and last year he was T15. In eight rounds, he’s posted zero over par and is 31-under. The bad news is that he’s MC in half of his last six stroke-play events and his best finish in that stretch is T43.
David Hearn: After an excellent Florida swing that saw two top 10s in three events, Hearn MC at SHO and RBC his last two times out. He might be forgotten this week but he’s trending in the right direction in Louisiana as he’s finished T46, T24 and T21 in his last three. He also has seven of those 12 rounds in the 60s. Shhhhhhhhhhh
Ken Duke: He’s played here in three of the last four editions and has posted T21, T7 and T21 finishes. He also has a solo second from 2007 to fall back on as well. His only top 25 (FFSP) in 13 starts was the Shriners back in October. Gulp.
Bobby Gates: He missed eight cuts from nine starts with his only finish being T80 at FIO. He was T24 here in 2012 and T4 last year so if a long-shot, hail Mary is needed this week, this is one of those options. He missed seven straight cuts last season heading into this event and his T4. #horseforcourse
John Rollins: In five of his previous six starts at TPC Louisiana, he’s finished T26 or better including T7 in 2012. Sadly, he has ZERO form to discuss heading into this week as he’s MC in three of his last four. He has ONE finish inside of the top 30 in 15 events this season. #yikes
Nicholas Thompson: Before returning to this event last year to MC, Thompson rattled off T4, T24 and T7 from 2008-2010. He was leading in the third round last week on Hilton Head and has hit the top 26 in three of his last four on TOUR.
Jerry Kelly: Since his win 2009 he’s posted one round from 12 in the 60s. That’s not enough this week.
Charley Hoffmann: He’s hit the top 25 once in seven tries at TPC Louisiana.
Scott Stallings: His lowest round in the last three years is 71. He also shot 80-77 in 2012. Congrats on your win this week, Scott!
The Man with His Own Section
Nick Watney: His WD from WGC was the day before his first child was born so I’m not concerned about his “injury” issue heading into the week at New Orleans. He knocked the rust off at Augusta but faded on after 75 on Friday. He’ll be happy to be back at TPC Louisiana where he picked up his first win on TOUR back in 2007. He also added T20 here in 2011 and was T15 last year with four rounds of 69. I’m not going to overpay but I’ll keep him in my sights.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.
SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement
Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.
RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
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 p.m. 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.