The Zurich Classic of New Orleans takes on a new format in 2017, making Brian Stuard’s title defense an interesting one at a minimum. For those unfamiliar, this is a two-man team event. That’s right. A Member-Member tournament just broke out at TPC Louisiana. There will be two rounds of four-ball (best-ball) and two rounds of foursomes (alternate shot).
This is a confusing week for many gamers. Most of the private leagues in which I play, all of which are run by veteran gamers, required clarifications as to how this week would factor. Yahoo! pulled their game for the week. Salary cap games are still pretty clean, as players will receive official money based on finish.
All that to say that, while the fan in us will likely find this week to be a fun watch, this can be a pretty quirky and possibly annoying week for gamers.
Since the PGA TOUR went off the script this week, I’m doing the same. Below you will find the team names I’ve assigned to my top 25 teams, including some thoughts on each. In a way this is meant to be directionally correct for value, but it’s also meant to be fun.
Away we go!
1. Captains Unite – The Jason Day / Rickie Fowler team combine leading stars of both the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams. While they aren’t officially their team captain’s, they certainly could be one day. As it stands, they are elite players on a course that should suit their eye and offer plenty of team experience.
2. Team Europe – The Justin Rose / Henrik Stenson duo will be channeling their years of European Ryder Cup experience in what should be a powerful display of ball-striking. Both offer similar strengths and potential weaknesses, so this should feel familiar for both players on all levels.
3. Roll Tide – Bud Cauley / Justin Thomas pair a couple of Alabama products who should be up to the task. They’ll be quite comfortable on the Bermuda greens in New Orleans and Cauley actually offers the better current form of the two. Expect JT to play aggressively, especially on the par 5s, while Cauley backs his play by securing pars and conventional birdies.
4. South African All Stars – Team Branden Grace / Louis Oosthuizen offer what could easily be a preview of the Presidents Cup later this year. Not unlike Team Europe, expect this group to be heavy on the ball-striking and a little lighter on the flat stick.
5. Lone Star Studs – Ryan Palmer and Jordan Spieth head slightly east of their home state to take on all comers. While this hasn’t been a good season for Palmer, he’s shown flashes of late. Spieth has been very good in team events, so the hopes of the group will probably fall upon Palmer keeping up.
6. Over the Radar – Kevin Chappell’s breakthrough win last week in San Antonio ruined the chances of Chappell and Gary Woodland coming into this week as under-the-radar contenders. Woodland’s power and Chappell’s current form are a lethal combination in an event like this.
9. Bomb Squad – It lacks creativity, but Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes are what they are. Both are off their game a bit this year, but that won’t stop either from swinging for the fences at TPC Louisiana this week. Bubba is a past winner of this event at this layout, though in the more traditional format.
10. Age Before Beauty – Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker have to be the oldest duo in the field, and maybe by 10 years, but they are actually a very sneaky pick this week. Kelly has played well on this course in the past, winning in 2009, and both will split fairways and pepper greens.
11. Shameless Plug – Brooks Koepka is bringing his little brother, Chase, along for the ride this week as a partner. That’s one way to help little brother get his career off and running.
12. Opposites Attract – Tony Finau and Daniel Summerhays make for an interesting pairing. Finau is known for his length, while Summerhays is more of a precision player. Strategically, this makes a lot of sense in four-ball, but could be questionable in foursomes.
13. Casual Kryptonite – The Jamie Donaldson / Tyrell Hatton team will catch the eye of savvy gamers and those that follow professional golf closely, but the casual fan that tunes in or an inexperienced gamer might just overlook this tandem to their own demise.
14. Aiken’s Finest – I alluded to this playing like a Member-Member tournament, and it’s quite possible that Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner have played together in a Member-Member somewhere in Aiken, SC over the years.
15. War Eagle – Jason Dufner and Patton Kizzire may be wearing matching Bo Jackson jerseys for their team uniform this week. Dufner is a noted ball-striker, but Kizzire has the ability to get hot with the flat stick.
16. Anchors Away – Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele might have a little more value if the anchored putters were still in play. That said, Steele has enjoyed a great 2016-17 and Bradley is improving from a poor 2015-16.
17. Amateur All-Stars – Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed were both well-known amateur stars before turning their attention to the professional ranks. Reed is a known commodity in team events, but Cantlay is a bit of a wild card.
18. Twins – I’ve heard the joke that Harris English and Hudson Swafford have never been seen at the same place at the same time. It’s not just their physical appearance that is a close match. Their perspective games are very similar as well.
20. Who’s Richy? – Ollie Schniderjans is making a mark on TOUR of late, nearly winning in Harbour Town two weeks ago. What many people will want to know this week is, who the heck is Richy Werenski?
21. Bermuda Boys – While Blayne Barber and Russell Henley are not from Bermuda, they both tend to excel on that particular strand of grass. Both are also former SEC golfers, so this is their neck of the woods.
22. Oh Canada! – Perhaps the least surprising team of the week is the matching of Graham DeLaet and David Hearn. I suppose they could have swapped in Adam Hadwin, but DeLaet and Hearn are both hoping to draw from the inspiration of Kevin Chappell’s breakthrough win last week. They are now two of the most veteran PGA TOUR members without a win.
23. Strikers Delight – Russell Knox and Kevin Streelman will have no trouble finding fairways and greens, due to strong ball-striking, but they will need to hit it close enough for the birdies to fall without a lot of fancy putting.
24. Bayou Bengals – The John Peterson / Andrew Loupe team will not be on many radars, but they are worth a flier. We’ve seen Loupe throw up some really low rounds in his young career, but he struggles to back them up and doesn’t always avoid big mistakes. Peterson is more of a steady player that could balance Loupe nicely. They are both LSU products returning to Louisiana.
25. Picked Too Soon – Ryan Blaum probably thinks he struck gold by nabbing Wesley Bryan as a partner. After Bryan’s win at the RBC Heritage, it’s possible that Bryan is thinking he picked a partner a bit too soon. Perhaps he could have snagged a bigger fish?
We’ll return with a more traditional format next week for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Best of luck to all!