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BlogZurich Classic Preview and Picks

Zurich Classic of New Orleans

April 27th – April 30th, 2017

TPC Louisiana

Avondale, LA

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,425

Purse: $7.1 million

with $1,022,400 to each team member to the winner

Defending Champion:
Brian Stuard

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 46 of the top 100 and 24 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with six players from the top-ten; #3 Jason Day, #4 Hideki Matsuyama, #5 Jordan Spieth, #6 Henrik Stenson, #8 Justin Rose and #9 Rickie Fowler. The rest of the top-50 players are #11 Justin Thomas, #15 Patrick Reed, #16 Tyrrell Hatton, #19 Brooks Koepka, #22 Branden Grace, #23 Kevin Chappell, #24 Bubba Watson, #27 Thomas Pieters, #28 Russell Knox, #31 Louis Oosthuizen, #37 Daniel Berger, #38 Wesley Bryan, #40 Kevin Kisner, #42 Gary Woodland, #43 J.B. Holmes, #44 William McGirt, #49 Charley Hoffman and #50 Hideto Tanihara.

Last year there were 10 top-50 players

The field includes 16 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2017.  Those players are #2 Hideki Matsuyama, #3 Justin Thomas, #6 Jordan Spieth, #8 Rickie Fowler, #9 Justin Rose, #10 Brendan Steele, #11 Russell Henley, #4 Wesley Bryan, #15 Gary Woodland, #16 Hudson Swafford, #17 Mackenzie Hughes, #18 Brooks Koepka, #20 Kevin Kisner, #21 Kevin Chappell, #24 Tony Finau and #25 Daniel Berger.

The field includes 16 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list. Those players are #2 Hideki Matsuyama, #3 Justin Thomas, #5 Jordan Spieth, #6 Justin Rose, #9 Rickie Fowler, #12 Russell Henley, #13 Brendan Steele, #14 Gary Woodland, #15 Wesley Bryan, #16 Brooks Koepka, #17 Kevin Kisner, #18 Hudson Swafford, #19 Kevin Chappell, #20 Bill Haas, #22 Daniel Berger and #23 Mackenzie Hughes.

The field includes 9 past champions: Brian Stuard (2016), Justin Rose (2015), Seung-Yul Noh (2014), Billy Horschel (2013), Jason Dufner (2012), Jason Bohn (2010), Jerry Kelly (2009), Nick Watney (2007), and K.J. Choi (2002).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Zurich Classic field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Zurich Classic in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Zurich Classic.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Player Valero Texas RBC Heritage Masters Shell Houston WGC-Dell Match Play Puerto Rico Arnold Palmer Valspar WGC-Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open AT&T Pebble
Justin Rose
(284.33 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(200)
T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP T38
(6)
DNP T4
(26.67)
T39
(3.67)
Kevin Chappell
(255 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP T7
(110)
T44
(4)
T39
(11)
DNP T49
(0.67)
DNP T55
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T48
(0.67)
Thomas Pieters
(238.33 pts)
DNP DNP T4
(160)
DNP T30
(20)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T5
(35)
CUT
(-3.33)
T2
(33.33)
DNP
Rickie Fowler
(224.33 pts)
DNP DNP T11
(78)
T3
(60)
DNP DNP 12
(25.33)
DNP T16
(17)
Win
(44)
DNP DNP
Russell Henley
(210.67 pts)
DNP T26
(24)
T11
(78)
Win
(88)
DNP DNP T45
(3.33)
T9
(15)
DNP T43
(2.33)
DNP DNP
Brooks Koepka
(210.67 pts)
2
(100)
DNP T11
(78)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T48
(1)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Wesley Bryan
(203.67 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T62
(0)
69
(0)
T7
(18.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
T4
(26.67)
DNP
William McGirt
(192 pts)
DNP T3
(90)
T22
(56)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T28
(11)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T66
(0)
Kevin Kisner
(186.17 pts)
DNP T11
(39)
T43
(14)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP 11
(19.5)
T48
(0.67)
DNP T10
(13.33)
Sung Kang
(169 pts)
T6
(60)
T11
(39)
DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP T49
(0.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T52
(0)
T22
(9.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jordan Spieth
(163.67 pts)
DNP DNP T11
(78)
CUT
(-6.67)
T30
(20)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(19)
DNP T22
(9.33)
Win
(44)
Charley Hoffman
(160.67 pts)
T40
(10)
CUT
(-10)
T22
(56)
T23
(18)
DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Branden Grace
(146 pts)
T10
(40)
T11
(39)
T27
(46)
DNP T39
(11)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T32
(9)
WD
(-1.67)
T22
(9.33)
DNP
Tony Finau
(144.33 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
DNP DNP T28
(14.67)
5
(23.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T23
(9)
Ollie Schniederjans
(140 pts)
T18
(32)
T3
(90)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T48
(0.67)
T8
(16.67)
DNP
Jason Dufner
(136.83 pts)
DNP T11
(39)
T33
(34)
T12
(25.33)
T51
(0)
DNP DNP T11
(13)
T23
(13.5)
T14
(12)
DNP DNP
Tyrrell Hatton
(134 pts)
DNP T29
(21)
CUT
(-20)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP 10
(20)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Patrick Cantlay
(131.33 pts)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP T39
(7.33)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP T48
(0.67)
Soren Kjeldsen
(115.67 pts)
T62
(0)
DNP T36
(28)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP T27
(7.67)
T32
(9)
T37
(4.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Luke Donald
(114.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
2
(100)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T27
(7.67)
T17
(11)
T23
(9)
Daniel Berger
(114 pts)
DNP DNP T27
(46)
5
(46.67)
T39
(11)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T16
(17)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Kevin Tway
(99.33 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T32
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T48
(0.67)
Justin Thomas
(99 pts)
DNP DNP T22
(56)
DNP T39
(11)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T5
(35)
CUT
(-3.33)
T39
(3.67)
DNP
Jason Day
(97.33 pts)
DNP DNP T22
(56)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP T23
(18)
DNP DNP DNP T64
(0)
T5
(23.33)
Jhonattan Vegas
(96.67 pts)
T34
(16)
DNP CUT
(-20)
T15
(23.33)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP T38
(6)
T4
(26.67)
T15
(11.67)
DNP
Ryan Palmer
(93.67 pts)
T6
(60)
T11
(39)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
T49
(0.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
J.J. Spaun
(90.67 pts)
T49
(1)
T6
(60)
DNP T44
(4)
DNP T17
(22)
T49
(0.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T21
(9.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Hideki Matsuyama
(90.5 pts)
DNP DNP T11
(78)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP T45
(3.33)
DNP T25
(12.5)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Cameron Smith
(89.33 pts)
T6
(60)
T29
(21)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
T49
(0.33)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Brendan Steele
(82.67 pts)
T62
(0)
DNP T27
(46)
DNP T30
(20)
DNP DNP DNP T48
(1)
T14
(12)
T39
(3.67)
DNP
Sam Saunders
(82.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T11
(39)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP T5
(46.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T49
(0.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
J.T. Poston
(80.33 pts)
T27
(23)
DNP DNP T55
(0)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T14
(12)
DNP T27
(7.67)
T17
(11)
T66
(0)
Graham Delaet
(80.33 pts)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
T22
(9.33)
DNP 10
(13.33)
T17
(11)
DNP
Hideto Tanihara
(80 pts)
DNP T39
(11)
CUT
(-20)
DNP 4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T32
(9)
DNP DNP DNP
Bud Cauley
(79.33 pts)
T10
(40)
T9
(45)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T58
(0)
DNP T27
(7.67)
T61
(0)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Player Valero Texas RBC Heritage Masters Shell Houston WGC-Dell Match Play Puerto Rico Arnold Palmer Valspar WGC-Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open AT&T Pebble
Roberto Castro
(-54.17 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-20)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T45
(2.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Steven Bowditch
(-53.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Every
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
WD
(-5)
DNP T65
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T62
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
John Senden
(-31.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T37
(8.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Cody Gribble
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T65
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 70
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Chris Kirk
(-26.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T62
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
Angel Cabrera
(-26 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-20)
T34
(10.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ken Duke
(-24.33 pts)
T58
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T23
(9)
Patrick Reed
(-23.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-20)
CUT
(-6.67)
T51
(0)
DNP DNP T38
(4)
T61
(0)
DNP T59
(0)
T23
(9)
Freddie Jacobson
(-23.33 pts)
T53
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

The season is halfway over, even though the Zurich Classic of New Orleans has a great sponsor and a great city to play in, players were not coming.  Lot’s of reasons, mostly the schedule is too crowded with some really good tournaments, players have to take time off and this was unfortunately the one of the weeks to take off.  The bottom line was that even though the event had a great sponsor in a great city with lot’s of really nice places to eat in, players just weren’t coming.

So between the PGA Tour, who has a new commissioner that would love to shake things up a bit, adding even more value and officials of the Zurich Classic, mostly tournament head Steve Worthy they all got together at the end of last year and cooked up what is a really great event.

What they did was to turn a regular tour event into a fun week by turning the event into a two-man team event.  Making it even more appealing, they kept in place a the big purse of over $7 million in which each member of the winning team will get a bit over a million dollars, along with FedEx Cup points and for each member of a winning team a two year exemption on the PGA Tour.

Players on the PGA Tour immediately fell in love with the concept and the event will have it’s best field ever.  Last year they only drew 23 of the top-100 ranked players in the world, for the new team event they will have 24, top-50 ranked players with six players from the top-ten.  The players loved the fact that they could pick their own partners for the team event that will utilize alternate shots on Thursday and Saturday and best ball during Friday and Sunday play.  They also liked the fact that it wasn’t a “special event” like the Templeton Shootout that is held in December and gives out only 24 spots.  This event will have a full field of 80 teams so 160 players on the PGA Tour will get to play in this.

This is the first time the PGA Tour has had a “official” team event since the 1981 Walt Disney Classic and it’s being herald as a great stroke of genius to do this.  Yes the PGA Tour tends to get a bit stale playing the same format week in and week out so this is a very important change of pace.

There are disadvantages, some of them being the reason the Disney event was stopped 36 years ago. Many purist feel that it’s unfair for players to receive FedEx Cup points and exemptions playing for a team event.  36 years ago many thought that players like Bill Britton and Mike Holland, the winners that year, had always struggled to keep a PGA Tour card and that it was wrong to give them exemptions and take away from two players the spots.  But back then only 60 players were exempt on tour, there weren’t as many events in the year so it was a lot harder for regular tour members to get one of those top-60 spots.  Today not only do the top 125 get exemptions, if you make it into the top 150 you get a lot of access to the tour.  On top of that, the tour is deeper with talented players in which it’s fair to say that anyone in the top-125 could win on the PGA Tour today.  Still players won’t receive World Ranking points and Augusta National won’t give the winning teams spots in next year’s Masters.

Still it’s a stroke of genius and it has taken a run of the mill event and placed it firming on the list of events for players to attend and fans to watch this week.

Tiger gets the knife again

Two days after telling a group of people that he was making progress with his game Tiger Woods had a fourth procedure on his back and thus will need the rest of the year to get it back into shape.  This immediately set social media spinning on the fact that maybe, just maybe we won’t see Tiger Woods play again.  That is probably not true, we will see Tiger play again on the PGA Tour and in majors, but the big question mark will be at what level.  The odds on him playing like he did between 1996 and 2009 are very long and you can just about bet your house that Tiger never catches Nicklaus 18 major wins, but he could one day win again.

Still it’s best to say that for those that witness what Tiger did in his prime was remarkable and a feat that may never be done again.  For many we can only hope that Tiger could one day because a spokesperson for the game, kind of like what Arnold Palmer use to be and what Jack Nicklaus and many others are, but frankly I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening.  Tiger hasn’t been that warm to doing something for the good of the game, unless he is paid a King’s ransom.  Still Tiger did start a great foundation and does help youngsters not only in playing golf, but getting a good education and putting there life on the right track so it’s not like Tiger is completely selfless.

So for Tiger watchers it’s going to be another 8 months without him as he will not play until his tournament in December, that is if the back allows him to.

Things you need to know about the Zurich Classic

This will be the 69th edition of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which was formerly called the New Orleans Open, then the USF&G Classic,then the Freeport McDermott Classic followed by the Compaq Classic before Zurich became the sponsor in 2005.  English Turn was the site of the tournament between 1989 and 2004.  It moved to TPC Louisiana in 2005 but because of Hurricane Katrina it went back to English Turn in 2006.  In 2007 it returned to TPC Louisiana and the course is back to normal again.

The first New Orleans Open was played in 1938 and was won by Harry Cooper.  Between 1949 and 1957 no tournaments were played, with the tournament starting back up in 1958.

Course information:

  • TPC Louisiana
  • Avondale, La.
  • 7,425 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • TPC Louisiana features a course rating of 76.6 and a slope rating from the back tees of 138. The tees, fairway, and rough are TifSport bermudaGrass as the greens are bermudagrass overseeded with Poa. The course is semi-private and can be played by the public.
  • In 2016 TPC Louisiana was the 31st hardest course on tour playing to a 71.16.  Heavy rains plus numerous delays is probably the reason the course played a shot and a quarter harder in 2016 than in 2015 when it was the 49th hardest course on the PGA Tour with a 69.951 scoring average.
  • The course was designed and built by Pete Dye with player consultants Steve Elkington and Kelly Gibson.  The course opened in 2004 and held the Zurich Open the next year.  The course is on 250 acres of former swamp land that Dye transformed into a course that can stretch up to 7,600 yards. The average green size at TPC Louisiana is 5,700 square feet, which is pretty much the average on the PGA Tour.  It features 71 bunkers with 20 acres of area covered in sand. Water comes into play on eight of the 18 holes

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Zurich Classic:

Key stat for the winner:

When it was a stroke play event, the winners mostly putted and scrambled well.  As for driving the ball, of the events last year that were played on one course, TPC Louisiana had the most generous fairways to hit on tour.  Players drove it into the fairway 68.93% of the time as only Bay Hill, Kapalua and TPC Deere Run saw more fairways hit.  As for greens hit it ranked 30th on tour.  Fitness around the greens will be needed.  Miss a green and you will have to master the chip and roll.

The greens do not have as much undulation as the average TPC courses, so look for an average to below average putter to have a good week.

Since this is the 11th year in a row for this course being used, anything can happen and anybody can win. Of the 11 champions at TPC Louisiana, six of them have been rookie winners and Bubba Watson was the most experience champion, when he won in 2011 he only had two PGA Tour wins.

So what does that mean, that while marquee teams like Jason Day & Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson or Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer will be the favorites, teams with very few or none PGA Tour wins will have a chance.  Teams like Daniel Berger & Thomas Pieters which has one PGA Tour win among them or Si Woo Kim & Sung Kang with one win has just as good, who knows maybe a better shot.

Compatibility will be important, teams like Hideki Matsuyama & Hideto Tanihara, Alex Cejka & Soren Kjeldsen and even the all-Mormon team of Tony Finau & Daniel Summerhays are all good friends and could find themselves ham & egging it shall we say.

On the same front of compatibility you also have teams based on going to college together, neighbors and playing together on the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams.  You have Georgia Bulldogs like Chris Kirk & Brandon Todd, alllow with Hudson Swafford & Harris English playing together.  Former LSU Tigers Andrew Loupe & John Peterson have teamed up, Madison, Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly will be together.  How about the team of Branden Grace & Louis Oosthuizen.  In 2015 they played four matches together and had a perfect 4 win, no loss record in both alternate shot and best ball, look for them to do well.  Then on the Ryder Cup, Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson played in six matches together having a 4 win, 2 loss record.  You even have a all-brother team of Brooks & Chase Koepka that will be playing together.

The weather forecast has some nice weather on Thursday and Friday, getting worst with a 50% chance of rain, along with very high winds.  Sunday will be really ugly, wins gusting up to 30mph with a 80% chance of Thunderstorms.

Who to watch for at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

So which teams should you go with?

One thing, there is no DraftKings game this week so the interest level won’t be as high.  Still people will want to know which teams to go with.

My Picks:

Daniel Berger & Thomas Pieters – Both are players who have contented on tour this year but the one stat that I like the best is their awesome, offense.  In Par Breakers on tour Pieters ranks 13th and Berger is just one behind him ranking 14th.  This could be the team to beat.

Branden Grace & Louis Oosthuizen – Like the vibe on both have an unbeaten Presidents Cup record.  They are also very quiet as both have come close on numerous occasions to winning and haven’t.

Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer – A perfectly matched team with Spieth the best putter on the PGA Tour while Palmer is 12th in Strokes gained tee-to-green and 7th in strokes gained approach the green.  They will be awesome in alternate shots.

Hideki Matsuyama & Hideto Tanihara – We know how good Matsuyama is finishing in the top-11, nine out of his last 15 starts while Tanihara has finished in the top-10 in nine out of his last 19 starts including finishing 4th in the Dell Match Play last month.  Both these guys together could go very low.

Some savvy picks

Jason Day & Rickie Fowler – Day has finished in the top-five the last two years in New Orleans while Fowler has finished in the top-16 in his last six starts including a win at Honda.

Hudson Swafford & Harris English – Fellow Bulldogs that would love to win together, both are good putters, English is the best.  But he is weak from tee to green while Swafford is a lot better, he is 8th in Strokes gained Off-the-Tee and 73rd in Strokes gained tee-to-green.

Two to be careful with

Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson – Many will can them one of the best teams but has not made it to the weekends in four of his last five starts. They have done great things together in the Ryder Cup, just wondering if they can continue the good play this week.

Some real longshots

Seung-Yul Noh & Byeong Hun An – Both have played well at TPC Louisiana with Noh winning in in 2014 and An finishing T-2nd last year.

My sentimental pick of the week

Brooks Koepka & Chase Koepka – Would love to see Brooks help his brother Chase who is a regular on the European Challenge Tour.

 

 

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