PGA Tour: Zurich Classic Preview
This week the PGA Tour moves to the Crescent City for the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.Its format is unique in that it now features teams of two playing against the entire field, somewhat resembling a match play format. Officials decided to opt for the new arrangement beginning in 2017. The first and third rounds are best ball, while the second and final rounds will be alternate shot.
Just like virtually any Pete Dye layout, TPC Louisiana is loaded with waste bunkers. Given that it’s at sea level, water is in play on numerous holes.
The setup began two years ago to set it apart from the rest of the Tour, though it has yet to attract some of the world’s best players, even with a two-year Tour exemption at stake.
The TPC Louisiana, also home to the notorious three-legged alligator nicknamed “Tripod,” has had a short but storied history since opening in 2004. A few months after the tournament was played at the Pete Dye layout for the first time in 2005, it sustained severe damage from Hurricane Katrina, forcing tournament officials to move the 2006 edition to its previous host course, the English Turn Golf & Country Club. It returned the next year to TPC Louisiana and has been there since.
According to reports at the time from The Times-Picayune, the course lost roughly 2,000 trees, and almost half the course flooded. New trees were subsequently planted, and the course is slowly regaining its intended makeup.
Since moving to TPC Louisiana, the tournament has provided the first career victories on the PGA Tour for Tim Petrovic (2005), Nick Watney (2007), Andres Romero (2008), Jason Dufner (2012), Billy Horschel (2013), Seung-Yul Noh (2014) and Brian Stuard (2016). In the team format, it did so for Australian Cameron Smith two years ago.
Though Brooks Koepka is the only top 10 player taking part, it provides a life-changing opportunity for one or two players. Those stories are compelling to me.
At moneyline odds of +1700, I’ll be making a bet on the pair of Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley. Finau, one of the longest hitters on Tour and a second cousin of NBA player Jabari Parker, is paired with Kyle Stanley, who has a previous top five in this tournament as an individual. Finau recently tied for fifth at the Masters and is long overdue for a second career Tour win. He and Stanley should complement each other well.
As for a long-shot team pick, I’ll be placing some each-way bets with the aforementioned Stuard, who will be teaming up with Scotland’s Russell Knox. They appear to be an overlay at +6000.
The pair of Jason Day and Adam Scott enter as favorites at +700, while Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood team up at +800. Koepka will be pairing up with younger brother Chase in the hopes of helping his sibling take his first win on Tour.
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