Best bets for the PGA Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Matt Fitzpatrick earned his second PGA Tour victory on the third playoff hole over Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage. Fitzpatrick, tipped in this column at 31-1 last week, stuck his approach from 186 yards, pulling up just inches from the hole to set up the easiest of winning birdies.

 

Spieth lipped out for birdie on the first playoff hole at the 18th and then just missed a nine-footer on the second playoff hole at the 17th.

Patrick Cantlay once again had to settle for a top-3 finish in Hilton Head, finishing third and just one shot ahead of his fellow Southern Californian Xander Schauffele.

Last week’s third- and fourth-place finishers return this week to defend their 2022 title in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Cantlay and Schauffele are the tournament favorites at +350. The other Southern Californians will make up team Cal Bears as Max Homa and Collin Morikawa (7-1) pair up for the first time.

Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell (14-1), who finished fouth here in 2021 with Brandt Snedeker, are another first-time pairing along with the Kims — Si Woo and Tom — at 16-1.

Sam Burns and Billy Horschel (21-1) were the runners-up here last year and finished fouth together in 2021. The latter is also a two-time winner here, having won individually in 2013 and winning the team event in 2018 with Scott Piercy.

Last week, Fitzpatrick won in Hilton Head where he and his family, including younger brother Alex, vacationed during his childhood. This week, Matt has a chance to have another special moment by helping Alex, currently playing on the Challenge Tour in Europe, get his PGA Tour card with a victory here at 50-1.

While this event is a different format and not a designated event, there are still nine of the OWGR Top 20 players in New Orleans this week.

The Event

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans has a history that dates to 1938 and has been played annually on the PGA Tour since 1958. Swiss insurance company Zurich took over as the tournament sponsor in 2005 and the Fore! Kids Foundation serves as the event organizer. In 2017, the Zurich Classic became a team event with 80 teams of two players, with 33 teams making the weekend cut. The event winners do not receive Masters invitations but do earn 400 FedEx Cup points, two-year PGA Tour exemptions, plus invitations to the PGA Championship, Sentry Tournament of Champions and The Players Championship.

Here is the format for the event:

Thursday: Four-Ball (Best Ball)

Friday: Foursomes (Alternate Shot)

CUT: Top 33 and ties advance

Saturday: Four-Ball (Best Ball)

Sunday: Foursomes (Alternate Shot)

For Four-Ball play, each player will play his own ball throughout the entirety of the round, with the best score on each hole recorded. Example: On the first hole, both golfers on each team tee off. Player A pars the hole and Player B birdies it. The team will be credited with a birdie.

For Foursomes play, players will alternate tee shots. One player will hit the tee shots on all the odd-numbered holes, and the other will hit the tee shot on even-numbered holes. Example: Player A and Player B are partners. On the first hole, Player A tees off; Player B plays the second shot; Player A plays the third shot; and so on until the ball is holed. The total strokes taken will result in the team’s score for that hole.

Here are this week’s 80 teams that will take part in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans:

Matt Fitzpatrick and Alex Fitzpatrick

Collin Morikawa and Max Homa

Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim

Sam Burns and Billy Horschel

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay

Kurt Kitayama and Taylor Montgomery

Ryan Brehm and Mark Hubbard

Joel Dahmen and Denny McCarthy

Tyler Duncan and Hank Lebioda

Harris English and Tom Hoge

Jim Herman and Ryan Armour

Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell

Andrew Landry and Austin Cook

Luke List and Henrik Norlander

Taylor Moore and Matthew NeSmith

Trey Mullinax and Scott Stallings

Chad Ramey and Martin Trainer

J.J. Spaun and Hayden Buckley

Robert Streb and Troy Merritt

Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin

Michael Thompson and Paresh Amin

Brendon Todd and Patton Kizzire

Erik van Rooyen and MJ Daffue

Matt Wallace and Callum Shinkwin

Richy Werenski and Scott Brown

Jason Dufner and Kevin Chappell

Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker

Jimmy Walker and D.A. Points

Thorbjorn Olesen and Nicolai Hojgaard

John Daly and David Duval

Edoardo Molinari and Luke Donald

Sam Saunders and Eric Cole

Victor Perez and Thomas Detry

Ryan Palmer and Scott Piercy

Sahith Theegala and Justin Suh

Davis Riley and Nick Hardy

Taylor Pendrith and Michael Gligic

Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler

Lee Hodges and Robby Shelton

Brandon Wu and Joseph Bramlett

Dylan Frittelli and Matti Schmid

David Lipsky and Aaron Rai

Russell Knox and Brian Stuard

Sam Ryder and Doc Redman

Greyson Sigg and Brice Garnett

Callum Tarren and Ben Taylor

Max McGreevy and Sam Stevens

Chesson Hadley and Ben Martin

Nick Watney and Charley Hoffman

Doug Ghim and Kramer Hickok

Kevin Tway and Kelly Kraft

Matthias Schwab and Vincent Norrman

Austin Smotherman and Harry Higgs

Justin Lower and Dylan Wu

Zac Blair and Marty Dou

Ben Griffin and Ryan Gerard

Davis Thompson and Will Gordon

Byeong Hun An and S.H. Kim

David Lingmerth and Jonas Blixt

Tyson Alexander and Carl Yuan

Harry Hall and Akshay Bhatia

Harrison Endycott and Aaron Baddeley

Michael Kim and S.Y. Noh

Austin Eckroat and Scott Harrington

Brent Grant and Kevin Roy

Paul Haley II and Cody Gribble

Carson Young and Kyle Westmoreland

Tano Goya and Trevor Werbylo

Augusto Nunez and Fabian Gomez

Brandon Matthews and Sean O’Hair

Trevor Cone and Andrew Novak

Chad Collins and D.J. Trahan

Cameron Percy and Greg Chalmers

Bill Haas and Jonathan Byrd

Chris Stroud and William McGirt

Ricky Barnes and Kyle Stanley

Wesley Bryan and Grayson Murray

Geoff Ogilvy and Kevin Stadler

Sung Kang and Sangmoon Bae

Derek Ernst and Robert Garrigus

The Course

TPC Louisiana has hosted the Zurich Classic of New Orleans since 2005 (except 2006 when course renovations post-Hurricane Katrina forced a move back to English Turn). It is in Avondale, which is a 15-minute drive southwest of Bourbon Street. The track was designed by Pete Dye in 2004 and renovated again by Chris Gray in 2012. It is a public course of 7,425 yards and plays as a par-72. The layout is defended by 106 bunkers (third most on tour) and five water hazards that are in play on seven holes. Two days after the 2019 tournament, the greens were re-done with TifEagle Bermuda grass (changing from MiniVerde Bermuda) overseeded with Poa Trivialis, and the fairways (34.7 yard average width — 15th widest on tour) were transformed to Celebration Bermudagrass. The greens are 5,225 square feet on average and relatively average speed (12 on stimpmeter).

There is no elevation on this course and it is the flattest layout on the PGA Tour.

The club was without power for 14 days and closed until Nov. 1 after Hurricane Ida hit on Aug. 29, 2021. Nine acres of wooded area had to be removed along with an additional 700 trees on the property. The most notable lost tree was in the middle of the 11th fairway. Since the hurricane, 400 new trees have been added to the property.

Pete Dye is the designer, so there is a fair number of Dye courses every year on the PGA Tour schedule if you are looking for a course correlation. They include:

Austin Country Club: WGC Dell Match Play since 2016

Crooked Stick: 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship

Harbour Town: RBC Heritage

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island: 2012 PGA Championship

TPC River Highlands: The Travelers

TPC Sawgrass: The Players Championship

TPC Stadium, PGA West: The American Express since 2016

Whistling Straits: 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship

Other correlated courses are the other TPCs on the PGA Tour, including TPC Twin Cities and TPC Scottsdale.

Recent History/Winners

2022: Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (-29/259); 9-1

2021: Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith (-20/268); 12-1*

2020: Tournament canceled (COVID-19)

2019: Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm (-26/262); 16-1

2018: Billy Horschel/Scott Piercy (-22/266); 40-1

2017: Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith (-27/261); 100-1**

Playoff win over Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel – *

Playoff win over Scott Brown/Kevin Kisner – **

Statistical Analysis

Strokes Gained Total gives us a glimpse of which players’ all-around games are in the most consistent form.

Strokes Gained Total (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele 85.68
  2. Max Homa/Collin Morikawa 67.32
  3. Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell 47.16
  4. Si Woo Kim/Tom Kim 41.76
  5. Nick Taylor/Adam Hadwin 39.60
  6. Sahith Theegala/Justin Suh 36.36
  7. Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler 34.20
  8. J.J. Spaun/Hayden Buckley 33.48
  9. Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery 29.52
  10. Joel Dahmen/Denny McCarthy 24.12
  11. Sam Burns/Billy Horschel 21.96
  12. Taylor Moore/Matthew NeSmith 20.88
  13. Matt Fitzpatrick/Alex Fitzpatrick 19.80
  14. Byeong Hun An/Seonghyun Kim 18.72
  15. Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard 18.00

Note: Raw Total Strokes Gained Per Team

Strokes Gained Approach is always of utmost importance, but especially this week in the foursomes (alternate shot).

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele 29.52
  2. Max Homa/Collin Morikawa 21.12
  3. Chesson Hadley/Ben Martin 13.20
  4. Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard 12.96
  5. Ryan Palmer/Scott Piercy 12.00
  6. David Lipsky/Aaron Rai 10.56
  7. Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler 9.84
  8. Brandon Wu/Joseph Bramlett 8.88
  9. Jason Dufner/Kevin Chappell 8.64
  10. Si Woo Kim/Tom Kim 8.40
  11. Edoardo Molinari/Luke Donald 8.16
  12. Erik van Rooyen/MJ Daffue 7.68
  13. Matt Fitzpatrick/Alex Fitzpatrick 6.72
  14. Lee Hodges/Robby Shelton 6.72
  15. Davis Riley/Tom Hardy 6.72

TPC Louisiana is a highly scoreable course. The cumulative winning score here last year was 29 under, so you need to shoot a lot of red figures and especially take advantage of the par-5s. Here are the team rankings for these categories over the last 36 rounds:

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele
  2. Max Homa/Collin Morikawa
  3. Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell
  4. Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery
  5. Sahith Theegala/Justin Suh
  6. Harry Hall/Akshay Bhatia
  7. Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler
  8. Joel Dahmen/Denny McCarthy
  9. Nick Taylor/Adam Hadwin
  10. Davis Riley/Nick Hardy
  11. Ryan Palmer/Scott Piercy
  12. Sam Burns/Billy Horschel
  13. Brendon Todd/Patton Kizzire
  14. Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard
  15. Byeong Hun An/Seonghyeon Kim

Strokes Gained Par-5s (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele
  2. Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler
  3. Nick Taylor/Adam Hadwin
  4. Brendon Todd/Patton Kizzire
  5. Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell
  6. Max Homa/Collin Morikawa
  7. Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard
  8. Davis Thompson/Will Gordon
  9. Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery
  10. Matt Wallace/Callum Shinkwin
  11. Lee Hodges/Robby Shelton
  12. Davis Riley/Nick Hardy
  13. Brett Grant/Kevin Roy
  14. Taylor Moore/Matthew NeSmith
  15. Erik van Rooyen/MJ Daffue

30% of the approach shots at TPC Louisiana are from 200 yards or more.

Proximity Gained from 200+ Yards (Last 50 rounds)

  1. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele
  2. Davis Riley/Nick Hardy
  3. Max Homa/Collin Morikawa
  4. Brett Grant/Kevin Roy
  5. Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard
  6. Davis Thompson/Will Gordon
  7. Taylor Moore/Matthew NeSmith
  8. Victor Perez/Thomas Detry
  9. Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery
  10. Tyler Duncan/Hank Lebioda
  11. Nick Watney/Charley Hoffman
  12. Harris English/Tom Hoge
  13. Harry Hall/Akshay Bhatia
  14. Callum Tarren/Ben Taylor
  15. Tyson Alexander/Carl Yuan

Selections

Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell (13-1, Boyd Sports)

Im was 14th last year with Ben An and is upgrading partners here with Mitchell, who carried Brandt Snedeker to a fourth here in 2021.

Cantlay and Schauffele are the rightful favorites with Homa and Morikawa just behind, but both of these players have contended for victories already this season.

Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery (25-1, BetRivers)

Team Las Vegas here as both live in Vegas and played college golf at UNLV.

Montgomery is the third-best putter on the PGA Tour this season and he also ranks fifth in Birdie or Better Percentage and Kitayama’s ball striking can put Montgomery in position to make a lot of birdies, particularly in the more difficult alternate shot format.

Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler (28-1, Bet365)

Clark was top 10 here last year with Cameron Tringale and gets an upgrade, at least on the greens, with Hossler.

Clark’s approach play has improved this year and he is more than just a bomber with a good short game as evidenced by posting four top-10s in his last 13 events.

Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard (46-1, Boyd Sports)

Hojgaard just accepted his PGA Tour special temporary membership earlier this week due to solid play stateside, and Olesen has won twice in less than a year on the DP World Tour (having won for this column at 22-1 in the Thailand Classic back in February) and looks to be well on his way back from his suspension due to an incident on an airplane incident in 2019.

Davis Thompson/Will Gordon (60-1, Circa Sports)

Team St. Simons Island here as both players are residents.

Both are excellent with the driver and with the long irons, particularly from 200+ yards.