Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay team up alongside fried oysters, crawfish, gumbo at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

AVONDALE, La. — With fried oysters and crawfish served on the driving range and gumbo simmering in hospitality areas, no stop on the PGA Tour packs more flavor than the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana.

The first shots of this year’s tournament will be hit on Thursday, the same day as the start of New Orleans Jazz Fest, and with the weather forecast calling for sunshine and warm temperatures to last through the week, the whole Bayou is primed for another party.

With its blend of Creole, Cajan, Spanish and West African influences, New Orleans is one of America’s unique cities, so it is fitting that this tournament has been unique on the PGA Tour schedule for the last seven years.

Starting in 2014, the Zurich has been the PGA Tour’s only two-man team event. Highlighting the field this year is an Irish duo, Ryder Cup stars Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, along with the defending champions, Davis Riley and Nick Hardy, and the 2022 winners, American Ryder Cup standouts Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

ZURICH: 10 teams to watch | Thursday tee times

“We started as a team at the Presidents Cup in Australia (in 2019),” Cantlay said after playing some practice holes with Schauffele on Tuesday afternoon. “Fred Couples and Tiger Woods put us together. They thought that with both of us being from California and being a similar age that we’d make a good pairing. We had a great time that week and won some pivotal matches.”

Instead of the typical 72-hole, stroke-play format used at nearly all PGA Tour events, the Zurich Classic features 18 holes of four-ball (commonly referred to as best ball) in the first and third rounds, with each golfer playing his ball and the lowest score counting for that hole. In the second and fourth rounds, the format changes to 18 holes of foursomes, which is often referred to as alternate shot. In those rounds, players will take turns hitting the same ball, which invariable rachets up the pressure because no one wants to hit a bad shot and leave his partner in a tough spot.

Standing in the shade behind the 18th hole’s grandstands Tuesday, Schauffele could not remember an instance of Cantlay putting him in a bad spot during alternate shot. However, he remarked that Cantlay had bailed him out several times after Schauffele felt he hit a less-than-great shot.

“Patrick is such a good chipper and it’s so hard around here,” Schauffele said. “There’ve been several times when he’ll leave me in a green-light spot, when you’ll get up-and-down 80 percent of the time or more, and then I’ll hit it to like 7 feet. Deep down, I know that he’d hit it to 2 feet or a tap in. Even the year we won, there were three or four holes in a row when he hit me to tap-in range. We’ll smile and start laughing, then I’d hit it to like 8 feet and he’d make the 8-footer.”

New Orleans has hosted Super Bowls and Final Fours and annually is home to massive Mardi Gras parades. Bourbon Street is probably the most “well hydrated” 13 blocks in the United States. If you want a great meal and a good time, this is the place to be. But, with more than $1.2 million going to each member of the winning team, along with a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, entry into the three remaining signature events and 400 FedEx Cup points, the party needs to be put on hold. And, in some ways, this week is a first audition for bigger things to come this fall.

“It’s a warm-up, of sorts,” Schauffele said. Pat and I have been around each other for several years, competing on teams together, and it’s always a goal for both of us to qualify for Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. This is a nice warm-up.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek