Only Team Event on PGA Tour: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Brady Kannon

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 3:13 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2018 3:13 PM UTC

The PGA Tour spices things up in the Big Easy this week with the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the only tournament format of its kind on the Tour.

Stuck in PGA Tour scheduling no-man's land, popularity and star power participation began to wane at The Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Taking place a few weeks after The Masters and a few weeks prior to The Players Championship, skipping New Orleans became a logical spot for the world's best golfers to take a week off. In 2016, only 23 of the Top 100 players in the world were in The Zurich Classic field.

Enter 2017 and The PGA Tour's decision to shake things up in The Big Easy. It introduced a two-man team play format and let the players chose a playing partner. The purse money did not change, FedEx points were still earned and each player still received a two-year exemption on Tour for a win. Suddenly, 24 of the Top 50 players in the world showed up to play. There had not been an official event on Tour with a team play format since 1981, and the change of pace proved to be a good one.

This season, there are 160 players in the field making up 80 teams, and over half of the Top 50 players in the world are in attendance, of which 6 players fall into the Top 10 in the world rankings. Obviously the party is returning to New Orleans. The players are enjoying the change and as a viewer, it is fun golf to watch. The Tour has added yet another element this year, and that is walk-up music. Yes, the teams have been given the option of choosing a song to play as they arrive at the first tee.

While all of the changes have made this a much more anticipated event, it makes the handicapping very difficult. We only have one year of history to refer to as far as this format, and rather than crunching the numbers on one isolated golfer we are being asked to apply quantitative analysis to a two-person team dynamic that really does not exist. Furthermore, on Thursday and Saturday, the teams will play alternate shot, throwing even more randomness into the fray. Friday and Sunday will be best ball and the Top 35 teams and ties will make the cut at the end of Round 2.

Here are some areas we can focus on, however: In the stroke-play versions of this tournament, Greens In Regulation and Putting were the big indicators of success. It was a birdie fest, so hitting greens and finding a hot putter were the recipe. The tournament has been held at TPC Louisiana 12 of the last 13 years, so course form can certainly be considered. Current form is relevant as well. It definitely helps to look at somebody who is coming in on a roll. Also, there is one other team-play event on the schedule. It is an unofficial event held during the of-season, The QBE Shootout, formerly The Franklin Templeton Shootout. One can take a look here and get a feel for how a player has done in this week's format.

Finally and maybe the most impactful set of data we can consider this week is how these players have done on Pete Dye-designed golf courses. We've seen a lot of them as of late and have for many years on Tour. The Match Play at Austin Country Club is a Dye course and so is Harbour Town, where they play The RBC Heritage. In two weeks, we'll be gearing up for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, another Dye design and after The U.S. Open the players travel to Connecticut for The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, yet another Pete Dye creation.

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

Enter Sandman.
Here I Go Again.

Complete list of all of the walk-up songs by the teams at this week's @Zurich_Classic.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 25, 2018

The Favorites

Team Rose & Stenson (+864 Pinnacle): Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson have paired together for many years and have seen a great deal of success. They came down the stretch as individuals in 2016 at The Olympics and captured gold & silver, respectively. They missed the cut in the inaugural version of this format last year but both players are coming in playing some of the best golf in the world this year. Rose won The Zurich Classic in 2015 and Stenson has won The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

The Contenders

Team Walker & O'Hair (+2800 5Dimes): There is definitely a great deal of current form in this pairing of Texans. Jimmy Walker took 20th at The Masters at the beginning of the month and was 4th last week at TPC San Antonio. Sean O'Hair has two Top 10 finishes in the last two months, including a 2nd place last week. O'Hair was also a part of the winning team back in December at The QBE Shootout.

Team Steele & Lovemark (+4300 Bookmaker): Another duo here that comes in on good form. Brendan Steele has only missed one cut all season and Jamie Lovemark hasn't in nearly three months. Lovemark was 2nd here in 2016, in a playoff in the stroke play version, while Steele took 6th last year at The Players Championship and 14th at The Travelers.

The Long Shots

Team Grillo & Uihlein (+5400 Bookmaker): I like a pairing that has a combination of strengths. Peter Uihlein can drive it a long way and his partner, Emiliano Grillo, hits a ton of greens in regulation and has been carrying a very hot putter this season. Grillo also has some great history at Dye design courses, finishing 16th two weeks ago at Harbour Town and 11th last year at The Players.

Team Stricker & Kelly (+7722 Bookmaker): For our biggest long shot of the week, we go to The Champions Tour. Yes, these two 50-somethings have been lighting it up with the seniors, ranking No. 1 and 2 on the 2018 Money List and have notched three wins combined this season. Jerry Kelly won The Zurich Classic in 2009 and was a perennial contender at The Players while Steve Stricker was paired with O'Hair for the win back in December at The QBE Shootout.

The Pick

Team Watson & Kuchar (+1449 Bookmaker): I mentioned a combination of strengths. Bubba Watson bombs the ball and hits greens in regulation. Matt Kuchar can putt and has an outstanding short game. That looks like a lethal combination, especially when they both come in playing very well. Kuchar loves Dye's Harbour Town course and has won there before. He also won The Players Championship at Sawgrass in 2012. Bubba has won here at TPC Louisiana and twice at TPC River Highlands. He is also just coming off of a victory at Dye's Austin Country Club in The Dell Match Play.

Check Out SBR's Zurich Classic of New Orleans Contest

Finally, I want to take a minute to say Thank You for the opportunity to share in this literary space with the late, great, David Malinsky. David was a man after my own heart, blessed with so many great talents and characteristics; a tremendous writing ability, a terrific sense of humor, an eclectic taste in music, an outdoorsman and a love of nature, obviously his incredible handicapping mind.. and most of all, being a super person. Hats off, Dave. You did well and we'll miss you.

comment here