The PGA TOUR heads to NOLA this week for the Zurich Classic.
This event has been running since 1938 but it will be the third edition since switching to a team-based format.
There are 80 teams of two in play this week. They will play Four-ball (best ball) during rounds one and three while rounds two and four will use the Foursomes (alternate shot) format. The top 35 teams (and ties) after 36 holes will make it through the cut line. From a percentage standpoint, that makes it one of the toughest cuts to crack all year (roughly just 45% of golfers will play all four rounds).
Winners receive 400 FedExCup Points each and a purse of $7.5 Million is also up for grabs.
On paper it's a good idea. You switch things up from the week-to-week grind and you also give golfers a little practice when it comes to team competition. However, without the fantasy aspect attached to it, it becomes easy to tune out and treat it as an off week. Perhaps that is just me living in a fantasy golf bubble though.
TPC Louisiana has played host here since 2005 (barring one year due to Hurrican Katrina). It's a Pete Dye design that plays as a 72 and stretches out past 7,400 yards.
The tee-to-green test is relatively easy as the field averages roughly 65 percent of fairways and 67 percent of greens in regulation.
There are five water hazards on property and they come into play on seven holes. Golfers that just played well during the Florida Swing might feel comfortable again this week.
What does it take to succeed here? When it was a stroke-play event we saw lots of driving metrics over-index (SG Off-the-Tee, Distance, Distance + Fairways) but as a team event we've seen Cam Smith and Jonas Blixt win then Scott Piercy and Billy Horschel win. Throw in Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown into that mix and suddenly we have a wild stew of course-fit elements. I wouldn't get too caught up in those elements this week especially with some rough weather in the forecast which can always alter what kind of golfers fit the course, also.
For grasses, we have bermudagrass this week with some overseed poa trivialis on the greens. It's that time of the year when weather over the last few months will dictate which grass is dominating right now. Comfort on bermuda is a plus.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Hudson Swafford: "Pete Dye courses, they’re visually very intimidating and very tough. You know, I feel like you kind of have to take the trouble off the tee. If it’s water, you might want to shy a little away from it. But fairway bunkers, stuff like that, holes like number 12, you’ve got to press that left fairway bunker to have a good shot into the green."
Daniel Berger: "I think the fact that it kind of reminds me of a Florida-style golf course, so I’m used to kind of seeing water on one side of the hole. You’ve just got to pick your targets and get good shots."
Billy Horschel: "With his [Pete Dye] designs, it’s a visual intimidation that he does off the tees and into greens and everything. And then when you get out there, you realize, man, there’s a lot more room or there’s a lot more green to hit to. I think it’s a mind game he plays with you. "
Kevin Kisner: "We know each other’s games so well, and we’re comfortable with each other and we know we’re both trying hard. Nobody gets upset at anybody. We know we’re doing the best we can. Looking forward to getting back here next year."
Scott Piercy: "Some the tee shots I don’t particularly like, you know, because of shape shot or whatever, I could kind of free myself up and hit a good shot because I knew I had a partner that felt good on the tee."
Overview: Swafford and Horschel talk about the struggled that come with playing on a Pete Dye track. Berger makes the connection to Florida, given all the water that's in play. Lastly, Kisner and Piercy talk about the team aspect of this event. Kisner and Brown don't particularly fit this course well but their chemistry is tough to beat.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
TPC Deere Run
Muirfield Village GC
One theme this week is easy-to-hit fairways but we see courses like Sawgrass, PGA National and Bay Hill pop up due to the water troubles found on the course and bermuda turf. Daniel Berger talked about this reminding him of a Florida-style course and the numbers back that up.
Thursday: A 60% chance of showers/storms with a high near 77 degrees. Winds at 5 to 15 MPH.
Friday: A slight chance of showers with a high near 78 degrees. Winds at 5 to 10 MPH.
Weekend: Temps in the upper 70s with calm winds.
There was plenty of wind to deal with last week at Harbour Town but this week it's more about avoiding the storms. This is nothing new for the event which has been plagued by delays over the years. Hopefully they get lucky and get avoid any serious delays.