The PGA Tour returns to the ‘Big Easy’ and TPC Louisiana this week for the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The first official team event on tour since the 1981 Walt Disney World Team Championship.
The new 72-hole stroke play format at the Zurich Classic features 80 two-man teams and will host Foursomes (alternate shots) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the second and final rounds.
After the end of Friday’s second round action, there will be a cut to the lowest 35 teams and all ties in 35th position.
The Zurich Classic may have had a face-lift but the incentives are still the same, seeing 10 of the past 20 champions returning to Avondale.
The tournament will still offer FedExCup points and official money, a win will count as an official victory for both members of the triumphant team. Both players will receive a two-year winner’s exemption and eligibility into Invitational fields, such as the Players Championship and the PGA Championship.
If two or more teams are tied after 72 holes, then a sudden-death playoff using the Four-ball format will decide the champions.
The tournament is one of the oldest on the PGA Tour, the New Orleans Open was first played on tour in 1939. TPC Louisiana has been the venue since 2005, the same year that Zurich signed on as a title sponsor and then same year it was altered by original designer Pete Dye.
It saw big changes with the inclusion of more hazards to demand stricter course management and brave play. Accuracy and fairways are key, to access the wide greens, but then the dance floor separates the champions from the field. You can’t underestimate the undulating and slippery greens.
- 17 players of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup make up the 80-man field.
- There are 10 Major Champions. Including Henrik Stenson (The 145th Open) and Jason Day (The 2015 PGA Championship).
- 7 of the world’s top 10 ranked players.
- 10 of the past 20 champions are present. Including last year’s champ Brian Stuard and 2015 winner Justin Rose.
Hot teams to watch
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson
The Olympic gold and silver medalists are no strangers to the team format or each others company. They have a superb record playing together. In 2014 they won all three of the matches they played together in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Rose was the winner of this event as an individual in 2015, carding a final score of 22-under, after rounds of 69, 66, 65 and 66.
Who can forget Rosie’s near Masters win this year after a dramatic playoff with Sergio Garcia. Whilst, Stenson is the reigning Open champion.
Jason Day and Rickie Fowler
Jason Day (No. 3) and Rickie Fowler (No. 9) are both ranked inside the world’s top 10 and as Zurich ambassadors were the first team officially announced.
Australian, Day, has gone under the radar most of this season, with his best finish being a T5 at the AT&T Pro-am at Pebble Beach and was in doubt to play the Masters after his mother’s surgery for lung cancer last month.
Whilst, Rickie Fowler since his start at the WGC-HSBC Championship last October has finished inside the top-20 in every start this season, including his win at the Honda Classic in February. After a T11 finish at the 2017 Masters tournament, this team could go low at the weekend.
Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer
Texan born natives Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer’s pairing came about in an unusual way, through their caddies Michael Greller and James Edmondson.
Playing 18 together in Dallas last year Edmondson threw a wild bet on the table. The former college golfer challenged former world number one Spieth. The stakes? If he won, Spieth would partner Palmer at Zurich.
And here they are now. Spieth with five top 10s this season, including a win at the AT&T Pro-am, Pebble Beach and a T12 at the WGC-Mexico, with a recent T11 finish at the 2017 Masters.
Palmer is coming off his best finish of the season, a tied sixth finish at the Texas Open and a T11 at the RBC Heritage. Not bad after five missed cuts out of ten starts this season.
Ian Poulter and Geoff Ogilvy
This is Ian Poulter‘s last chance to win back his PGA Tour playing rights and it was longtime friend Geoff Ogilvy who gave the Englishman the chance.
Ogilvy put Zurich on his playing schedule six weeks ago asking tournament officials for a list of unpaired players, until he found Poulter.
Friends since the early 1990s between them, they have five World Golf Championships including three Match Play titles and have vital team Four-Ball and Foursomes experience. Ogilvy playing in three Presidents Cups and Poulter in five European Ryder Cup teams.
There team must win this week in Louisiana if Poulter wants to regain his status for this year after his Major Medical Extension came to end last week at the Texas Open.
Has the change been welcomed?
Much like the new team event on the European Tour, Golf sixes, the team competition at the Zurich Classic has created real excitement between all the players. With everyone just wanting to have fun and enjoy the break from normal 72-hole stroke play tournaments, and just have a buddy out there!
To have this is unique and we’ve all been very excited to get here and do it. It’s going to lead to a lot more fun, I think it would be fun if we had a couple of these events a year.
The buzz around the PGA TOUR has been amazing.
Just look at the strength of field this week and the excitement its brought. Guys at the top of the world rankings can enjoy a week like this and pair up with friends, this is unique and special.
I’ve always believed, 72-hole strokeplay is the purest form of the game, as you get the truest winner. That should be protected. Having one a year, not many more than that, it shouldn’t become the norm.
If you were going to pick a guy who you know is going to make big putts for you, that you know is going to come up big down the stretch, Poulter is high up on that list. I’m pretty excited.
Venue: TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana
Date: April 27-30
Forecast: Strong winds over the weekend (20 mph). 10% chance of rain.
Course: Par 72. 7,425 yards
Purse: $7,100,000; Winners: $1,022,400 (each)
Defending Champion: Brian Stuard (-15)