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April 20 2013

1:15 PM

First Look: Zurich Classic

Jason Dufner and Ernie Els squared off in a playoff last year at TPC Louisiana. 

FIELD LIST: Zurich Classic of New Orleans | Guan, 14, gets sponsor invite

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor

• COURSE: TPC Louisiana, 7,425 yards, par 72. Located in the suburbs just west of New Orleans, the 2004 Pete Dye design winds through some 250 acres of Louisiana wetlands along the Mississippi River delta. The course features more than 100 bunkers, plus several large waste bunkers along the first six holes of the back nine. The Zurich Classic relocated there in 2005, though flooding a year later forced a one-time return to English Turn G&CC. Last year, TPC Louisiana ranked as the 10th easiest layout on the PGA TOUR schedule.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: The Fore!Kids Foundation, which has given more than $23 million to Louisiana children’s service organizations since its founding 55 years ago. Donations focus on health-care and education projects.

• FIELD WATCH: World No. 4 Justin Rose and defending champion Jason Dufner are among just six to sign up from among the top 25 in this week’s world rankings. ... Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese whiz who made the Masters cut two weeks ago, is in on a sponsor exemption. It’ll be relatively familiar territory – he spent a month with a family friend last year while preparing for U.S. Open qualifying.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 262, Chip Beck (1988 at Lakewood CC). TPC Louisiana record: 269, Jason Dufner and Ernie Els (2012).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Paul Stankowski (1st round, 2001 at English Turn G&CC). TPC Louisiana record: 64, Kyle Reifers (1st round, 2007), Troy Matteson (2nd round, 2009), Dean Wilson (2nd round, 2011), Greg Chalmers (2nd round, 2012), Russell Knox (2nd round, 2012), Ryan Palmer (3rd round, 2012).

• LAST YEAR: Dufner finally ended his long wait for a PGA TOUR victory, going two extra holes before a birdie that finally pushed him clear of a hard-charging Ernie Els. The World Golf Hall of Famer made up a three-shot deficit with a closing 67, but missed a 16-foot try at birdie on the final hole of regulation. Els then missed a 5-foot birdie attempt when they replayed No. 18 to start the playoff. Dufner put an end to it on the third pass, reaching the green in two and lagging up to a tap-in birdie. Els found a fairway bunker on the second replay, missing a long birdie from the fringe. Dufner’s first victory came after eight years and 164 PGA TOUR starts.

• STORYLINES: Dufner, seeking to become the fifth man to win back-to-back in New Orleans, hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in his past four visits. He tied for third in 2011, seventh a year earlier and ninth in 2009. … Els has three top-3 finishes in six starts in New Orleans, though last year was the first time he had played TPC Louisiana. … Five of the past eight champions made New Orleans their first PGA TOUR win, a trend that seems strong again with so few highly ranked participants. … Former champ David Toms, whose 2001 win preceded a PGA Championship title, will play his home-state event for the 20th time.

• SHORT CHIPS: The Zurich Classic has been decided by either one stroke or in a playoff eight times in the past 10 editions. The lone exceptions were won by Nick Watney (2007) and Jason Bohn (2010). … Champions Tour pro Neal Lancaster makes his fourth PGA TOUR start of 2013, given a sponsor exemption.

• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. EDT (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).

• RADIO: Thursday- Sunday, noon-6 p.m. EDT (SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio).

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