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BlogZurich Preview and Picks

Zurich Classic of New Orleans

April 26th – 29th, 2018

TPC Louisiana

Avondale, LA

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,425

Purse: $7.2 million

with $1,036,800 to each winner to the winner

Defending Champion:
Cameron Smith

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 26 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with six players from the top-ten; #2 Justin Thomas, #3 Jordan Spieth, #4 Jon Rahm, #5 Justin Rose, #9 Brooks Koepka and #10 Sergio Garcia. The rest of the top-50 players are #11 Patrick Reed, #12 Tommy Fleetwood, #14 Jason Day, #15 Henrik Stenson, #18 Bubba Watson, #21 Matt Kuchar, #22 Pat Perez, #24 Kevin Kisner, #25 Rafael Cabrera Bello, #26 Ian Poulter, #28 Charley Hoffman, #30 Louis Oosthuizen, #33 Tony Finau, #34 Patrick Cantlay, #36 Gary Woodland, #37 Daniel Berger, #40 Cameron Smith, #42 Ross Fisher, #46 Brendan Steele and #50 Chez Reavie.

Last year there were 24 top-50 players

The field includes 16 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  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 11 past champions: Cameron Smith and partner Jonas Blixt (2017), Brian Stuard (2016), Justin Rose (2015), Billy Horschel (2013), Jason Dufner (2012), Bubba Watson (2011), Jerry Kelly (2009), Andres Romero (2008), 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 the 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 Houston Open WGC – Dell Match Play Corales Arnold Palmer Valspar WGC Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open
Patrick Reed
(382.17 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(264)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP T7
(36.67)
T2
(33.33)
T37
(6.5)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Bubba Watson
(338.5 pts)
DNP DNP T5
(140)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP T9
(22.5)
DNP Win
(44)
Jordan Spieth
(302.67 pts)
DNP DNP 3
(180)
T3
(60)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T14
(18)
DNP T9
(15)
Justin Thomas
(255 pts)
DNP DNP T17
(66)
DNP 4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(50)
Win
(44)
T9
(15)
Cameron Smith
(242.67 pts)
DNP T32
(18)
T5
(140)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T46
(1.33)
DNP DNP T6
(20)
Henrik Stenson
(230 pts)
DNP DNP T5
(140)
T6
(40)
DNP DNP 4
(53.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Ian Poulter
(224.33 pts)
DNP T7
(55)
T44
(12)
Win
(88)
T5
(70)
DNP T41
(6)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Kevin Kisner
(199.5 pts)
DNP T7
(55)
T28
(44)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 29
(10.5)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Jon Rahm
(175 pts)
DNP DNP 4
(160)
DNP T52
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(15)
DNP DNP
Tony Finau
(171.83 pts)
DNP DNP T10
(80)
T24
(17.33)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T27
(11.5)
DNP T2
(33.33)
Justin Rose
(165.83 pts)
DNP DNP T12
(76)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP 3
(60)
T5
(23.33)
T37
(6.5)
DNP DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(164 pts)
DNP DNP T17
(66)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP T14
(18)
4
(26.67)
T37
(4.33)
Matt Kuchar
(160.67 pts)
T51
(0)
T23
(27)
T28
(44)
T8
(33.33)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP T40
(3.33)
T58
(0)
DNP T26
(8)
Charley Hoffman
(155.67 pts)
T64
(0)
T23
(27)
T12
(76)
DNP T36
(14)
DNP T14
(24)
CUT
(-3.33)
T20
(15)
DNP T41
(3)
Jimmy Walker
(149.67 pts)
4
(80)
DNP T20
(60)
DNP DNP DNP T73
(0)
T28
(7.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Zach Johnson
(147.33 pts)
5
(70)
T42
(8)
T36
(28)
DNP T36
(14)
DNP T26
(16)
T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Louis Oosthuizen
(144.33 pts)
DNP DNP T12
(76)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T16
(11.33)
T30
(10)
T24
(8.67)
DNP
Sean O’Hair
(136 pts)
T2
(100)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP DNP T7
(36.67)
T12
(12.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T64
(0)
Trey Mullinax
(135.33 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Andrew Landry
(133.33 pts)
Win
(132)
T42
(8)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Keith Mitchell
(127.33 pts)
T26
(24)
T55
(0)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Emiliano Grillo
(127.33 pts)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP T50
(0.67)
T26
(16)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP
Patrick Cantlay
(104.67 pts)
DNP T7
(55)
CUT
(-20)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP T30
(10)
DNP T4
(26.67)
Andrew Putnam
(102 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP T32
(12)
DNP T5
(46.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Chesson Hadley
(100.33 pts)
T20
(30)
T7
(55)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP T49
(0.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Byeong Hun An
(99 pts)
DNP T7
(55)
DNP T52
(0)
DNP DNP T14
(24)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP
Jason Day
(92.67 pts)
DNP DNP T20
(60)
DNP T36
(14)
DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(91.33 pts)
DNP DNP T38
(24)
CUT
(-6.67)
T36
(14)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(45)
T29
(7)
T26
(8)
Harris English
(89.67 pts)
T36
(14)
T32
(18)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T5
(46.67)
T22
(18.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Brice Garnett
(89 pts)
80
(0)
T42
(8)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP T31
(6.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Martin Laird
(84.67 pts)
T11
(39)
T32
(18)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(16)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T9
(15)
Jamie Lovemark
(81 pts)
T30
(20)
DNP DNP T24
(17.33)
DNP DNP T41
(6)
T16
(11.33)
DNP 7
(18.33)
T26
(8)
Billy Horschel
(79 pts)
T11
(39)
T5
(70)
CUT
(-20)
DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Daniel Berger
(79 pts)
DNP DNP T32
(36)
T18
(21.33)
T59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T14
(18)
T29
(7)
CUT
(-3.33)
Bud Cauley
(77.33 pts)
DNP T23
(27)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP T14
(24)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
T20
(10)

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 Houston Open WGC – Dell Match Play Corales Arnold Palmer Valspar WGC Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open
Cody Gribble
(-40 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Billy Hurley III
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
D.A. Points
(-36.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Jon Curran
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Mackenzie Hughes
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T59
(0)
DNP
Cameron Tringale
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Smylie Kaufman
(-30 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Scott Brown
(-28.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T76
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T64
(0)
DNP T46
(1.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Wesley Bryan
(-28.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T42
(8)
CUT
(-20)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Whee Kim
(-25.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T50
(1)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T49
(0.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz

For the last two weeks, we saw the problem, not as many marquee players.  In past years 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 week many thoughts was good 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 and a new commissioner that wanted to shake things up a bit and the folks that ran the Zurich Classic, they all got together 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 fell in love with the concept and the event last year had it’s the best field ever.  In 2016 they only drew 23 of the top-100 ranked players in the world.  But last year when they changed things into a team event, 24 top-50 ranked players with six players from the top-ten showed up.  This year there are again six top-ten players in the field with 26 top-50 ranked players, but of the 160 in the field, 46 of them are in the top-100 of the Official World Rankings.  The reason for the good attendance is they all love the change of pace form the week in and week out 72 hole stroke play event. 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 from different tours will get to play in this.

Last year was the first time the PGA Tour had an “official” team event since the 1981 Walt Disney Classic and was 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 37 years ago. Many purists feel that it’s unfair for players to receive FedEx Cup points and exemptions playing in a team competition.  37 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 those 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.

Brooks is back

When Brooks Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan during Thanksgiving weekend, things were looking up for Koepka.  He was the U.S. Open champion and when he finished 6th at the Tour Championship, won two out of four matches in the Presidents Cup, was T-2nd at the WGC-HSBC Champions and then winning in Japan things were looking great for 2018.  But between Japan at the end of November and two weeks later in the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge, something drastically happened.  To this day Koepka has no idea how he hurt himself, but out of the blue at the Hero World Challenge, his left wrist started to bother him.  He didn’t play much over the holidays but in early January the pain was intense when he played at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.  He flew home and put the clubs into hibernation for the next 15 weeks as he tried to recover from a partially torn tendon in the wrist.  After watching Patrick Reed win the Masters he had the fever back to play and with doctors, blessings started to play again.  Koepka decided last week to make his comeback bid at the Zurich Classic, the only problem it was too late to get his brother to team up with him, last year they finished T-5th.  So last Wednesday he got in touch with Mike Turnesa, who has had his share of injuries in his career and the two will play together this week.  So we really don’t know what to think, how a mystery ailment like this mysteriously went from hurting to good in 3 months, the big question will be if he can do what Tiger has done, go many weeks and many swings with no hurt.  I am going to be cautiously optimistic what the future lies for Brooks and We will just have to wait and see.

Things you need to know about the Zurich Classic

This will be the 70th 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.
  • Since last year was a team event, there are no real stats or information on how the field played.  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

DraftKings

Because of the nature of this week being a team event, there are no DraftKings games for the Zurich Classic, so no comparison stories this week.

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 putt and scrambled well.  As for driving the ball, of the events last year that was 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, 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 12th 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. Last year’s champions Cameron Smith, who never won on the PGA Tour and Jonas Blixt, who won twice previously added to the lore that those with a lot of victories win in New Orleans.
  • So what does that mean, that while marquee teams like Bubba Watson & Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia & Rafael Cabrera-Bello or Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer will be the favorites, teams with very few or none PGA Tour wins will have a chance.  Teams like Tommy Fleetwood & Chris Paisley which has no PGA Tour wins among them or Emiliano Grillo & Peter Uihlein with one win has just as good, who knows maybe a better shot.
  • Compatibility will be important, teams like Louis Oosthuizen & Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia & Rafael Cabrera-Bello 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. Madison, Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly will be together and fellow South Africans Retief Goosen and Tyrone Van Aswegen.
  • The weather forecast has some nice conditions with temperatures in the high 70s each day and no rain.

Who to watch for at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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:

Bubba Watson & Matt Kuchar – On paper, this is a great team, Bubba hits it far and scrambles well, Kuchar hits a lot of greens and makes putts.  Watch this team because I like there chances.

Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson – Couple of good friends who have teamed up together six times with four wins together should easily lap this field, but last year they missed the cut as a partnership.  See better things from them, they won’t miss the cut and I think they will seriously play well this year.

Charl Schwartzel & Louis Oosthuizen – Fellow South Africans have played together in the Presidents Cup and both have won major championships and should on paper be a great team.

Patrick Reed & Patrick Cantlay – Team Patrick’s should be good, Reed is playing for the first time since winning the Masters and Cantlay is a quiet moose that goes about his business and does well.  Look for this team to be hard to beat.

Pat Perez & Jason Dufner – Dufner has never liked playing on TPC Louisiana but with Perez they have a lot of experience together and could make a run at it.

Some savvy picks

Sergio Garcia & Rafael Cabrera-Bello – A couple of ham and egg stars, the only problem that they have is the lack of putting.  Still, don’t underestimate this team.

Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer – A perfectly matched team with Spieth, one of the best putter on the PGA Tour while Palmer is great from tee-to-green and hitting greens.  They will be awesome in alternate shots.

Scott Brown & Kevin Kisner – A team not many will consider and should.  They played together as kids and they each have traits that are different than each other, meaning they will be good in this format.

Jason Day & Ryan Ruffels – Day should be a great partner for Ruffels and gets the best out of him.

Some real longshots

Ian Poulter & Graeme McDowell – Have a lot on paper to show how good they can be, Poulter has always been a perfect partner and should continue this trend this week.  If McDowell can get it together, they will be hard to beat

Brendan Steele & Jamie Lovemark – A great longshot pairing, they can combine the best of their skills and be pretty much covered.

 

Comments

  1. Charles McDonnell says:

    Dufner doesn’t like playing TPC Louisiana??? 5 Top 10’s in 8 starts with a Win. Hasn’t played here since 2013, but still. Thoughts??? I got this info from your player performance.

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