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Defending champs Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele return as red-hot favorites at the Zurich Classic

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Defending champs Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele return as red-hot favorites at the Zurich Classic

    Written by Mike Glasscott @MikeGlasscott

    "Fourballs" and "Foursomes" return to the lexicon this week for The Zurich Classic in New Orleans. "The Big Easy" and TPC Louisiana will feature 80, two-man teams and is the only official partner event on the PGA TOUR calendar this season. And looking at the opening odds from BetMGM Sportsbook, one (familiar) team stands out.

    Defending champions Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (+350) return as clear favorites as they look to become the first pair to defend the title since the event moved to team format in 2017. Last year's triumph was punctuated by setting the tournament scoring record (29 under) which included the course record 59 in the first Fourballs session. Both players were in the fight until the final shots last week at Harbour Town. Cantlay secured his fourth top-10 payday in his last six on TOUR with solo third. Schauffele made it three consecutive events inside the top 10 with solo fourth. No voodoo to report here, just Cajun hot!

    This is the fifth event this season held on a Pete Dye design as TPC Louisiana, the host course since 2007, serves as the backdrop. The par-72 layout checks in at 7,425 yards as it meanders thru the swamps and delta and will provide the classic Dye risk-reward angles off the tees and into the greens.

    Cal Bear alums Max Homa and Collin Morikawa (+700) partner for the first time in this event. Homa has already picked up two victories and two additional podiums this season and has added T6 at TPC Sawgrass, another Dye puzzle. Morikawa cashed in the top 10 four times in eight starts in 2023, including T10 at the Masters two weeks ago. The pair are both T11 or better in SG: Total on the season.

    Billy Horschel and Sam Burns (+1000) finished two back in second last year after sharing fourth in their debut in 2021. Horschel, who has won this event as an individual (2013, first TOUR win) and in the team format (2018, with Scott Piercy). Burns, the Louisiana native, already has a victory this season after winning the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last month.

    Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell (+1200) debut as a unit this week. Mitchell has the best previous showing, sharing fourth with Brandt Snedeker in 2021. Im, never better than T14 in this format, roars into town after T7 at Harbour Town, T16 Masters, and T6 PLAYERS Championship in his last three stroke-play tournaments. This combination is highlighted by Mitchell leading the TOUR in Total Driving while Im sits in the top 12 in SG: Tee to Green and SG: Off the Tee.

    Korean Presidents Cup team members Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim (+1600) will join forces this week for the first time as well. Both of these fellas won't have any problem making birdies, and that will help this week. Tom Kim won in Greensboro and Las Vegas over the last year while going low. He also cashed T6 at The American Express earlier this season. Si Woo Kim, a former PLAYERS champion and winner at The American Express, has shown a penchant for handling Pete Dye layouts. Both missed the cut last week at RBC Heritage, but both also remember knocking off Cantlay and Schauffele in the Saturday afternoon Fourballs at the Presidents Cup last September!

    Here's a look at some of the other notable teams and opening odds for this week’s event, with prices via BetMGM:

    +2200: Sahith Theegala/Justin Suh

    +2800: Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler, Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery, Taylor Moore/Matthew NeSmith

    +3300: David Lipsky/Aaron Rai, Nick Taylor/Adam Hadwin, Davis Riley/Nick Hardy, JJ Spaun/Hayden Buckley

    +4000: Joel Dahmen/Denny McCarthy, Tom Hoge/Harris English

    +4500: Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard, Victor Perez/Thomas Detry, Brendon Todd/Patton Kizzire

    +5000: Lee Hodges/Robby Shelton, Matt Fitzpatrick/Alex Fitzpatrick, Sam Ryder/Doc Redman

    +5500: Ryan Palmer/Scott Piercy

    +6000: Trey Mullinax/Scott Stallings

    +6600: Byeong-Hun An/SH Kim, Chesson Hadley/Ben Martin, Harry Hall/Akshay Bhatia, Zach Johnson/Steve Stricker, Justin Lower/Dylan Wu, Matt Wallace/Callum Shinkwin

    +8000: Brandon Wu/Joseph Bramlett, Tyler Duncan/Hank Lebioda, Doug Ghim/Kramer Hickok, Luke List/Henrik Norlander, Greyson Sigg/Brice Garnett, Erik van Rooyen/MJ Daffue

    +10000: Davis Thompson/Will Gordon, Ben Griffin/Ryan Gerard, Brandon Matthews/Sean O'Hair

    How it works:

    The field of 80 teams will have one day of Fourballs and Foursomes to determine the top 33 teams and ties who will advance to the weekend.

    Better ball (Fourballs) will be in play on Thursday, while Friday will use the alternate shot format (Foursomes).

    Teams advancing to Rounds 3 and 4 will use the same order on the weekend to determine the winning team, meaning the final round will utilize Foursomes format.

    Each winning team member will receive 400 FedExCup points plus half of $2.485 million top prize.

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