The Zurich Classic of New Orleans was always a well-regarded PGA Tour event which regularly attracted a high class field to TPC Louisianna. The event organisers and the PGA Tour believed it was the perfect tournament at which to add something new to the schedule though and it was all change in 2017 when the Zurich Classic became a team event.
The 80 teams of two will complete a round of four-balls on Thursday and a round of alternate shot on Friday before the top 35 and ties make it through to the weekend where the format repeats to decide the winner. Partnerships with a combination of skills should have a chance to shine by leaning on one another and that’s the approach which could well see Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley prosper at 22/1 with Betfred.
The format of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans would not work at every golf course. The intricacies of alternate shot would be too difficult on a course that is overly taxing so the getable nature of TPC Louisianna is perfect for this tournament. The par 72 layout can stretch to a maximum distance of 7,425 yards which is a fair old distance but it had a habit of producing low winning scores when the Zurich Classic was a traditional stroke play event and that’s continued with the new format.
The best pairs this week will have complementary styles of golf that allow them the chance to score on the various hole shapes and designs found at TPC Louisianna. The one thing they’ll need to have in common though is a solid putting ability. The greens are very slopey which is a major challenge as they are set to run at 12 on the Stimpmeter.
|TPC Louisiana||Avondale, Louisiana||7,425 Yards||$7,300,000|
This is just the third time that the Zurich Classic of New Orleans has been played as a team competition. The first pair to get the job done was Jonas Blixt the Cameron Smith. The youthful partnership had an instant understanding of how to get the best out of one another’s game but the rather flaky nature of the tournament is reflected in the fact that they missed the cut last year.
Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy were the next partnership to show that winning this tournament is as much about how pairs gel together as the technical golfing ability of either player. They also showed that it is important to be able to hack the pressure that making almost constant birdies demands as did the last three individual winners of the Zurich Classic.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy||TPC Louisiana||-22||1 Stroke|
|2017||Jonas Blixt & Cameron Smith||TPC Louisiana||-27||Playoff|
|2016||Brian Stuard||TPC Louisiana||-15||Playoff|
|2015||Justin Rose||TPC Louisiana||-22||1 Stoke|
|2014||Noh Seung-yul||TPC Louisiana||-19||2 Strokes|
Analysis: Relentless, Attacking Golf Could Prove Vital
There is some pretty horrible weather in the forecast for the first two days of play at TPC Louisianna. That will pose the players a serious challenge but the hot and sunny conditions at the weekend combined with a damp golf course should ensure another winning score that nears -30. Making that many birdies and eagles is no mean feat so team who take an aggressive approach to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans should have the edge over those who focus more on keeping bogeys off the card.
Finau and Stanley Have the Right Combination to Win
Tony Finau found himself in the shake up going into the final round of the Masters once again this year. The big hitting American has developed into the sort of player who can compete with the best on the biggest stages so it is more than a little surprising that he has won only once on the PGA Tour.
Finau’s partner, Kyle Stanley, has two PGA Tour wins to his name but is a much less eye catching player. Stanley relies on finding fairways and greens which, when married up with a good week on the greens, is a recipe for making a lot of money. Both men are ultra-competitive types who are primarily interested in wins though so should push each other on in Avendale. Their combination of styles certainly suggests they’ll be able to rack up the number of birdies required so Finau and Stanley look very well priced at 22/1 with Betfred.
Harrington and Lowry Interest at a Big Price
Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry are each regarded as having among the best short games on the PGA Tour. The Irish duo have each other to thank for that as they practice their chipping and pitching together at almost every event that they both play in by trying to get up and down out of increasingly horrible positions.
They’ll take that fun yet competitive approach to the golf course at TPC Louisianna which should make them dangerous to the competition. Given Lowry’s recent form you’d think that he will have to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of the scoring but they both did some good work when finishing on -11 under last year and have every chance of making a fairly big improvement to be in contention come Sunday so back Lowry and Harrington each way at 66/1 with Betfair.
Final Verdict: Finau & Stanley to Win
The new look Zurich Classic is still finding its feet a little as a tournament. That make things trickier from a betting perspective but there is no doubt the opportunity is there, especially if a team with the quality of Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley play to their potential at a very generous price of 22/1 with Betfred.
About the Zurich Classic of New Orleans
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans is played annually on the PGA Tour. Since 2005, Zurich (a Swiss – would you believe – insurance company) has sponsored the event, taking over from HP. Zurich signed an extension in 2018 to sponsor the tournament until at least 2026. The event has had several names and various sponsors since the first edition, which was called the Crescent City Open, and was held back in 1938.
The Classic of New Orleans was a fairly typical individual event from the very start in 1938 through to 2016. From 2017 and onwards, the tournament had a major format change, becoming a team event, with 80 teams of two players taking part. At the time of writing, no player has won this tournament more than twice.
That won’t be changing for a while at least after the 2020 edition of the event fell foul to the pandemic. Many events were postponed that year but organisers of the Zurich decided to cancel the tournament which had been due to take place at the end of April.
As said, this golf tournament has gone by many names over the years and it has also been held at a number of different courses. New Orleans’ City Park Golf Courses did the honours until the early 1960s, whilst Lakewood Country Club, and English Turn Golf and Country Club have also played host.
More recently TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye course, has hosted, though this is actually in Avondale. The TPC venue was used from 2005 and remains the event’s home, although due to Hurricane Katrina the 2006 edition was held at English Turn.
A Change in Format
It’s not just the name and golf course that has changed and the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans was its first as a team event. The pairing of Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith came out on top at TPC Louisiana. The duo edged past American rivals Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner in a playoff.
As for the last individual event, Brian Stuard picked up the win in 2016. The Michigan man edged past An Byeone-hun and Jamie Lovemark in a playoff. Despite the weather shortening play to 54 holes, it was still an exciting tournament, Stuard picking up $1.26m for his first, and at time of writing only, PGA Tour win.
Couch’s First PGA Tour Win a Memorable One
Chris Couch had a topsy-turvy week in New Orleans back in 2006. Couch started the week needing police assistance after ending up in the wrong part of town. However, he ended the week on top of the pile, sealing his one and only PGA Tour win to date.
Couch was hoping to force a playoff, but he went one better, beating Fred Funk and Charles Howell III to the title by 1 stroke. It was without doubt Couch’s best moment in his golfing career.
Singh’s Sensational Win
Vijay Singh has had an incredible career in golf, but nothing can top his remarkable season in 2004. ‘The Big Fijian’ stormed to No. 1 in the world after winning a staggering nine tournaments in one year, earning over $10m in prize money in the process. Younger fans won’t remember quite how good Singh was for a period of time but he actually held top spot in the rankings for 32 weeks, quite a feat considering a certain Tiger Woods was around at this time.
Along with the Buick Open, PGA Championship and Bell Canadian Open – plus five other tournaments – Singh came out on top in the HP Classic of New Orleans. It was far from easy for the Fijian, who was pushed all the way by the great Phil Mickelson. However, Vijay pipped Mickelson and Joe Ogilvie to the crown by 1 stroke in a thrilling tournament.
South American on Top in New Orleans
Before Carlos Franco’s memorable Classic of New Orleans victory in 1999, there had not been a South American winner on the PGA Tour since Roberto De Vicenzo won the Houston Champions International way back in 1968. The Paraguayan put that stat to bed by winning the 1999 Compaq Classic of New Orleans by 2 strokes.
After his win on American soil, Franco said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll get a parade. Maybe more than that.” There was even more joy for the South American a year later, as Franco made it back-to-back Classic of New Orleans victories by beating Blaine McCallister in a playoff.
Two Parades for Choi
In 2002, K.J Choi became the first Korean man to win on the PGA Tour. Shortly after his triumph in the Compaq Classic of New Orleans, Choi secured the Tampa Bay Classic and the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. Classy stuff.
The man from South Korea won in style, hitting a 271 and finishing a solid four strokes ahead of Dudley Hart and Geoff Ogilvy. Choi made a huge impression at home, with Korean TV buying the rights to the final round. On his return home, Choi was given two parades for his heroics in the States.
Rose a Thorn in Tringale’s Side
Englishman Justin Rose won the penultimate individual Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2015. American Cameron Tringale pushed him all the way in Louisiana, but Rose held on for a one-stroke victory.
Before Rose’s success in 2015, the last Englishman to win this tournament was Lee Westwood in 1998. Incredibly, since Harry Cooper won the inaugural event back in 1938, when it was called the Crescent City Open, there have been just three British winners of the New Orleans Classic.
British Winners at the Zurich Open
|2015||Justin Rose (England)|
|1998||Lee Westwood (England)|
|1991||Ian Woosnam (Wales)|
|1938||Harry Cooper (England)|
Cooper’s success aside, Americans won the first 17 editions of this tournament, a run only broken in 1967 when Canadian George Knudson took glory. The event has been dominated by players from the Americas, with Franco (Paraguay) and Andres Romero (Argentina) joining a long list of US victors.
As said, nobody has ever won this more than twice, although 10 players have managed two wins. Greats such as Byron Nelson and Tom Watson won’t be pushing for a third title but Billy Horschel, who boasts one win in each format of the tournament, could become the first man to land a hat-trick of New Orleans wins.