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Course Spotlight: Solid Foursomes plan wins on the betting board at Zurich Classic

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Course Spotlight: Solid Foursomes plan wins on the betting board at Zurich Classic

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    Preparation on the PGA TOUR seldom involves another player unless you are entered in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The TOUR’s annual trip to New Orleans should re-energize 16 of the top 50 in the OWGR who are heading to TPC Louisiana. This Pete Dye design checks in at 7,425 yards and is one of the 10 longest these guys will see all season.

    Covered in 106 bunkers, precisely-placed penalty areas, and the addition of 600 trees since Hurricane Ida, there is plenty to write about from a PGA Professional’s perspective about this test. However, this week presents a bigger challenge before we even get to the golf course: picking a partner. Eighty teams of two are competing to get inside the top 33 and ties to make it to the weekend.

    There’s $8.6 million in purse money for those who do make the cut in New Orleans. The two winners will split $2,485,400. The format to get there is different due to the team aspect. The teams will play Four-ball on Thursday and Saturday. This style of play consists of each player competing with their own ball over 18 holes. At the completion of each hole, the low score counts as the team score.

    On Friday and Sunday, the teams will utilize the Foursomes format (or in basic terms, alternate shot). The team will start by determining who will hit the tee shot on the odd holes and the even holes. Once the ball is put into play off the tee, the players will alternate playing each shot into the hole. The score is their team score for that hole.

    Here’s where each team can find an edge. Most weeks, I’ll dig deep into the course and give you my PGA expert opinion on who can win. But the Zurich Classic is different. I believe most teams win when they select their partner if they are paying attention to the format. Forget your friends: we are playing for a piece of an $8 million purse. Since the team format started in 2017, the winning teams have averaged 19 under par for the Four-ball format and 6 under for the Foursomes.

    Foursomes is the area where you can differentiate yourself from the field. It’s a difficult format to find a rhythm, and if you don’t plan well it can be a frustrating disaster. Here are a few strategic points the top teams have (hopefully) taken into consideration:

    • Your best iron player should be teeing off on the odd holes. He will face three of the difficult 200+ yard par 3s. He will also get the approach shot on the fourth, sixth, and 12th holes. Those par 4s are all over 470 yards.

    • Your best driver should get the even holes. He will tackle the tee shot for two par 5s, the reachable eighth and 16th holes, and he’ll hit the tee ball on three of the longest par 4s. If he favors a left-to-right ball flight, that’s even better. Right-handed players can fade it on five of their eight driver tee shots.

    As a golf professional, the first thing I would do when playing Foursomes is look at the course. Imagine a team like Collin Morikawa and Max Homa. Place Collin’s iron game on the odd holes and Max’s fantastic fade off the tee on the evens. Sounds like a path to victory. For them it makes sense, but maybe you’re looking for more value on theboard at BetMGM Sportsbook than the +750 price attached to Morikawa and Homa.

    Justin Suh has played incredibly well on difficult golf courses in recent weeks. He finished fifth at the Honda Classic and sixth at the Stadium Course for THE PLAYERS, another Pete Dye design. Sahith Theegala was fifth last week at Dye’s Harbour Town and ninth at the Masters. Both have the potent putter needed to record the 25+ birdies it will take to win. Listed just below the betting favorites, BetMGMhas them at +2200 to win.

    • Dipping down into the middle tier, I still see tremendous value with Hayden Buckley and J.J. Spaun. Here are two more guys who play difficult courses well. Combined they are ranked second in the field for greens in regulation, hitting 69 percent. Buckley’s off-the-tee game helps them secure almost 65 percent of fairways and they can come out of the middle tier to win. BetMGMlists their odds at +3000. If you believe winning is a stretch for these two, take them at +225 to finish inside the top 10!

    That Foursomes strategy will only go so far. I’d limit my exposure to the middle tier and above for picking an outright. In five team editions, the average pre-tournament winner’s odds are +3400. Take away the team from year one – Jonas Blixt and a then-unknown Cam Smith at +10000 – and the average drops to +1700. Our winner will come from the top third of the odds board. Focus your strategy there, once you select the best Foursomes teams, and you’re going to succeed.

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    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

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