56th Zurich Classic
Yards: 7,425 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Mini-Verde Bermudagrass with Poa trivialis; 5,700 square feet on average
Rough: Tif-sport Bermudagrass 2”
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architects: Pete Dye (2003) with player-consultant Steve Elkington
Winner’s Share: $1,242,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: April 23-26
Notes: 156 players; top 70 plus ties will play the weekend
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, Alex Cejka (PRO), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Matt Every, J.B. Holmes and Jim Furyk are the first 16 winners of calendar 2015. Hahn (No. 297), Harrington (No. 297), Cejka (No. 285) and Every, No. 96 were the only players outside the top 70 in the OWGR to win this year.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season the USA has won with Snedeker, Koepka, Haas, Walker TWICE, Reed, Hahn and Johnson, Spieth TWICE, Every, Holmes and Furyk in 2015. The USA already picked up wins in 2014 portion from Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin. The USA has won 18 of the first 23 events. Cejka, Harrington and Jason Day make up the rest of foreign legion who have won in calendar 2015. They join Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) from the 2014 as the international winners.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Through 23 events in 2015, Hahn, Koepka, Martin, Streb, Taylor and Cejka have broken their maidens.
Romp Through the Swamp
The “Big Easy” plays host to the Zurich Classic this week and quite frankly, this event has lived up to that nickname. Over the last five years 19-under-par has been the average winning score. The course record was set last year and the tournament record was set in back-to-back years at 20-under before Noh’s 19-under last year.
Pete Dye’s classic Harbour Town Golf Links were picked apart last week as the weather in the low country of South Carolina made the small greens accessible and the narrow fairways soft and easier to hit. This week, one of his newer (2003) tracks should endure the same fate. The perfect greens are some of the easiest on TOUR to putt and birdies run rampant. There are the Dye tricks of waste areas and mounds to distract the eye but Noh only made three bogeys on the week and all of them came in the final round.
TPC Louisiana has crowned seven, first-time winners in 10 events since its permanent move in 2005. Gamers, please note that the 2006 edition was played back at English Turn after TPC Louisiana was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. That course history won’t be of use this week. The warm weather can turn tricky in the spring time so make sure to check #WeatherManRob’s forecast on Wednesday night before setting lineups.
Ball-strikers have done well here in the recent past as shown below. So have first-timers because this is a course that breeds confidence. Most youngsters have had to birdie their way onto the TOUR so going low should bring some new names to the top. Also, with a very light field teeing it up there aren’t as many big names to leapfrog moving up the board. Having four par fives on the card this week won’t discourage scoring either!
This week, the more fairways are hit, the more better the chance for GIR but that being said, the rough is only two inches. The more GIR that are hit the more chances to hole birdies on these sweet greens. The scrambling numbers have been very favorable as well so that’s another component of avoiding bogeys and going low.
2014: Seung-Yul Noh -19
2013: Billy Horschel -20
2012: Jason Dufner -19
2011: Bubba Watson -15
2010: Jason Bohn -18
2009: Jerry Kelly -14
2008: Andres Romero -13
2007: Nick Watney -15
2006: ENGLISH TURN
2005: Tim Petrovic -13
Only Kelly, Bohn and Watson had won on TOUR before their WIN at TPC Louisiana.
Facts and Figures
This will be event No. 10 on this track so course history factors again heavily this week.
As shown above six of the last nine on this course have been first-timers, including the last three.
Other than Tim Petrovic in the inaugural event, only Romero has won in his first look at the TPC Louisiana.
Jerry Kelly is the oldest winner at 42 in 2009.
Noh, at just a shade under 23 last year, is the youngest winner.
Only two of the nine winners here have come from outside the US (Noh, Romero).
There hasn’t been anyone to defend their title or win more than one since moving to TPC Louisiana.
Tournament and Course Records
Horschel, 2013 at 20-under.
Ben Martin beat the course record by two shots last year when he fired 62 in the opening round. He finished T15 yet is not playing this week. Weird.
The highest winning score was the inaugural year when Petro posted 275. Romero equaled that in 2008.
Bizarre Stat of the Week:
No defending champion has ever finished better than T18 the following season. #CourseHistoryFact
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses). The Chalk was a dumpster fire last week so the rally cap and #SpiethBoner t-shirt is going on this week.
Dustin Johnson (B): If he was in the column for the Masters where he doesn’t usually play well then he’s in EVERY week he’s entered. He won at WGC-CC and backed that with T6 at Valero and T6 at the Masters. He’s 30-under-par on the five pars during those three events. He leads the TOUR in strokes gained: tee-to-green, second in scoring and fourth in birdie average. When he’s played the weekend this year he’s never finished worse than T6.
Justin Rose (B): Gamers were nervy as he stumbled into the Masters on the back of MC-MC-55TH-MC-T37 but Rose showed his class rebounding to finish T2 to Spieth. His ball-striking rounded into form and that’s where he puts the fear into the field. The last three at TPC Louisiana have yielded T10-T15-T8 and 38-under-par.
Jason Day (B): The last time he missed a weekend not due to injury was last summer at QLN so in a field this thin he’s an automatic selection. He disappointed at the Masters but he makes birdies for fun (third in average) and he’s the No. 1 all-around player on TOUR. He’ll chew up the par fives and he’s 11th in GIR. I’ll gladly jump back on the horse.
Morgan Hoffmann (C): If first-timers are the order of the day here, he’s playing as well as any of them recently and deserves a look this week. After WD at Honda he’s rattled off T17-MC-4th-T28-T9 in his last five. In those last three events he’s put 11 of 12 rounds at par or better and six of those have been in the 60s. He’s T21-T34 in his only two trips here and half of those rounds have been in the 60s.
Cameron Tringale (B): Don’t let his MC last week at Harbour Town bother as he has never played the weekend there in three tries. THIS Pete Dye course is the one that fits his eye. He’s played four weekend of five and only has two rounds above par in 18 loops. He’s posted T28-T18-T7-MC-T17 in that stretch. He also rattled off eight weekends in a row before last week on HHI.
Brendan Steele (C): He’s rattled off 16 weekends in a row, good for T6 on TOUR. Half of his eight events in 2015 have resulted in T14 or better including T2 at Humana, another course where multiple birdies are required. He’s currently eighth in the all-around, 13th in SGTTG and 18th in birdie average. I’d expect a solid bounce back after a two-week break.
Daniel Berger (B): He’s racked up the fourth-most birdies on TOUR because he hits it a mile and finds plenty of GIR. He’s sixth in par five birdie-or-better percentage and not much bothers him. He’ll enjoy the easier greens this week.
Justin Thomas (C): He shared a house last week with Spieth at HHI as he was the player that introduced Jordan to his caddy, Michael Greller. The inspiration turned into perspiration as Thomas posted all four rounds under-par for the first time since Humana. He tied his housemate for the week at T11 and stole the master bedroom earlier in the week when Spieth was on his media tour. Thomas sits seventh in the all-around and is second on TOUR in birdies made and 14th in par-breakers. He’ll break through; it’s just a question of when.
Rickie Fowler (B): He’s made 17 weekends on the trot and I’m going to piggyback his 67 to close at Augusta. He was 10-under on the par fives at the Masters and the ones here aren’t going to be as difficult. I’d point out that he hasn’t had a positive SGP in five events but that would be a buzz kill. Easy greens cure what ails.
Keegan Bradley (C): He was close at API before 77 on Sunday blew him up. He had an excellent ball-striking week at SHO to finish T5. He fired one of the lower ones on Sunday with 68 to finish T22 so his game is rounding into form. He was one back of Noh’s lead here on Sunday last year before bogey-triple knocked him off the pace (T8). He’s first in total driving so he has that going for him, which is nice.
Troy Merritt (B): With a solo sixth and solo third in two of his last four starts he’s on the radar this week. His putter is usually the weapon of choice but his outstanding ball-striking last week saw him hold the 36 and 54-hole lead. Imagine if he made any putts! He was third here in 2010 and T48 last year. He had to fight Kuchar and Furyk last week and should be up for the fight again this week.
Brendon de Jonge (C): He’s 12 of 15 this season and April has been solid as he was T5 at SHO and T18 last week at RBC Heritage. He’s not afraid of making birdies and pounds fairways and greens. His history on this track gives me pause but he’s been T26 or better in two of his last three. #thinfieldthickgolfer
Harris English (A): He fired 14-under in 2013, his last visit, to finish T6. He enters the week on the back of seven of eight cuts made in 2015 and finishes of T10-T29-T30. He has had three weeks off so he should be fresh and ready to get low. He’s 20th in ball-striking and 19th SGP.
Sean O’Hair (C): He fought Reed and Spieth in a playoff at Valspar and found his third top 30 in four events with his solo sixth last week at RBC Heritage. He’s played the weekend in four out of five at TPC Louisiana but it’s his current form I like, especially his hot putter.
Course Horses & Form Plays
Robert Streb: His blazing start to 2015 crashed out for two months before rallying last weekend at RBC Heritage. After four MCs and T56-T59, Streb Throat rallied to close 68-68-70 at HTGL for T44. He’ll be happy to see easy greens as his putter has disappeared but he did make 23 birdies here finishing T2.
William McGirt: In his last three he’s posted T59-T40-T31 so he’s trending again in the proper direction. He’s played the weekend in eight of 10 in 2015 and guys who make the cut aren’t going to ever scare me off.
David Toms: The Louisiana golf oracle has made six cuts in a row here including T15 last year.
Kevin Kisner: He entered Sunday here last year 10-under but shot 76 to disappear to T34. He didn’t disappear last Sunday when he needed 64 to force a playoff, including a seven-footer for birdie. He lost in a playoff to Furyk after playing great so I’m interested to see how he reacts. I’m not sure if he should be considered among the favorites but he would be silly to omit.
John Peterson: I can’t hide him deep enough this week. He’s a riot on Twitter if you’re into that and he’s not bad inside the ropes either. After missing 17 of 25 cuts last year he’s only missed one in 14 in 2015. He has two top 10s on TOUR, T4 at the 2012 U.S. Open and T8 here in 2013.
Scott Piercy: Hit it a mile. Find it. Hit the green. Make birdie. He has no problem getting low and opened with 63 his last time out at SHO. Last time he was healthy in New Orleans he was T13.
Alex Cejka: He’s showed no signs of slowing down since his playoff win at PRO and has followed his first TOUR win with finishes of T53-T11-T31. He’s played his last eight at par or better and has been solid all around.
Jason Bohn: There’s not many past champions worth looking at this week but at least he’s played the weekend in seven of his last eight events. He’s shown in the past that he’s a calculated flier in events where a shit ton of birdies are necessary. It doesn’t hurt that he’s won here before or finished T17 twice in two of his last four on TOUR.
Bernd Wieseberger: Ok, I’ll bite. I like him this week because this will be BY FAR the easiest course he’s played on TOUR this year. His other stops were Doral, Bay Hill and Augusta. He might have a “holy shit” moment this week when he runs into a course that yields birdies for fun.
Jeff Overton: He’s made six on the bounce here including a second, a fourth last year, T13 and T18 in that stretch. That qualifies as course horse.
Blake Adams: Ok, I love him this week. Shhhh. Don’t tell. After a slow start coming back from hip injuries with MC-MC-MC, he returned six weeks later with T58 at Valero. He striped it a SHO to MC by a shot on three-under. Last week he striped it again and was T11. His ball-striking is stellar and his putter is dialed in.
Chad Collins: He’s found the weekend in eight of his last 11 attempts but has missed two of his last four. The two he made went for T16 and T11 at Honda and Houston.
Chesson Hadley: Every MC he has this season besides the HTOC (no cut event) his SGP has been negative.
Martin Laird: He’s made seven cuts in a row but the down side is the last four have been T33 or worse.
Steve Stricker: A flat course and an easy one to putt sounds like a soft landing spot after his 2015 debut at Augusta.
Tony Finau: The learning curve for rookies on TOUR can be severe and it has been for Finau. Once the courses became more difficult, so did finding results as he has four MCs in his last six and his two weekends have resulted in T68-T42. He showed flashes at SHO before 77 on Saturday sank his chances to break out of his funk. It’s hardly surprising that he MC last week at HHI because young bucks don’t fare well there. Well, they DO fare well at TPC Louisiana and he’ll be encouraged to see a track he’s used to crushing. I would think he turns it around this week.
Tommy Gainey: Two gloves, two top 10s in four starts at Zurich. Two gloves, two starts in 2015 on TOUR, no cuts.
Brice Garnett: Thawed a nasty start to 2015 with 65-66 Friday-Saturday last week at HHI. He only made two bogeys in his final 54 holes even though he was T52 in fairways.
Lucas Glover: He has three top 10s and T19 in seven tries.
Scott Pinckney: He’s posted T6 and T8 in two of his last four on TOUR.
Kyle Reifers: He’s MC six times in 2015. He’s played the weekend four times with results of T21-T8 and back-to-back T11s in his last two at Valero and SHO. He made nothing at SHO and was T11. Hmmmmmm. He tied the course record the first time he teed it up here. Hmmmmmmm x two.
Sam Saunders: Another bomb and gouger that should be excited to see scoring conditions with the way he putts. He rattled off four weekends in a row starting with P2 at PRO before missing out last weekend.
Will Wilcox: He shot 59 with a yellow ball on the web.com last year. What more do you need than that? He’s played three events in 2015 and finished T18 at Pebble Beach, T6 at PRO and T33 at Valspar. Flier, flier, yellow ball’s on fire! He finished T12 on the Web.com last week as well.
Will MacKenzie: He’s MC in six of eight here and has nothing better than T44 in his last three on TOUR.
Michael Thompson: Let the competition explain how he went to Tulane before transferring to Alabama after Hurricane Katrina and how that’s an angle this week. He has one round in the 60s from eight tries in three events at TPC Louisiana. He has one top 25, T11 at Torrey, in nine events in 2015. Take LSU player Curtis Thompson if you want an angle.
Ben Crane: He’s MC in five of his last six including his last three in a row at Zurich.
Richard Sterne: He’s missed his last seven cuts everywhere on TOUR. Congrats to Richard on his first win this week.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Sony: Blair and Thomas finished T6 in their Sony debuts.
Humana: SJ Park (T2) is new to the TOUR but is hardly a rookie; Oh, look: Thomas in the top 10 again (T7).
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Farmers: Blair and Ortiz were T11 and Finau and Berger were T24. Not bad on a big, bad course!
Pebble Beach: Another top 10 for Berger and Curran as they had low rookie honors at T10. Will Wilcox was T18.
Northern Trust: Barber checked in at T12 and all that took was firing a tournament-low 65 on Sunday. No shame in Ortiz’s final round 75 from the final group as he played two very tough SoCal courses, Torrey South and Riviera T11 and T20. Noted.
Honda: Berger lost in a playoff. He’s played 10 TOUR events.
PRO: Young Argentine Emiliano Grillo missed a three-footer for his first win on TOUR. Curran hit another top 10, his third this season. Grillo has three TOUR starts; Curran has 17.
Valspar: There’s that pesky Thomas back in the top 10 AGAIN!
API: Berger just missed out on another top 10 with T13 and Blair and Ortiz racked up another top 25 each on T21.
VTO: Welcome Scott Pinckney to the proceedings as his T8 was quite stout. Ortiz hit the top 20 AGAIN with T15.
SHO: Berger, T25. He just keeps on keepin’ on.
Masters: Now you see why Spieth (WINNER) and Matsuyama (5th) were retired from the column? Koepka has already won as well. So has Henley. And Reed. Nobody this week fits.
RBC Heritage: Thomas, T11.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at 12 ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Zurich Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.