How it works: Zurich Classic team format
April 17, 2017
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes will team up once more to play in New Orleans. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
The PGA TOUR returns to TPC Louisiana this week for the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. This marks the first year of team play at the event, and with the new format comes plenty of questions. Click here for the list of the teams set to compete.
Here is the breakdown of this year's team format.
HOW IT WORKS
TEAM FORMAT: The new 72-hole stroke play format will feature Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the second and fourth rounds.
For Foursomes play, players will rotate 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.
For Four-Ball play, the players on each team will each 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.
FIELD: The starting field will consist of 80 teams (160 players). Each of the top available players from the PGA TOUR Priority Rankings who commits to the tournament will choose his partner, who in turn must have PGA TOUR status unless he is chosen as a tournament sponsor exemption.
SCHEDULE: Thursday's Foursomes round begins at 8 a.m. local time (9 a.m. ET), with the last tee time at 1:56 p.m local. Friday's Four-ball round begins at 7 a.m. local (8 a.m. ET) with the last tee time at 2:02 p.m. local. Teams will go off two tees in each of the first two days. Saturday's start time is approximately 9 a.m. local off one tee. Sunday's start time will be determined later.
MAKING THE CUT: Following the conclusion of the second round, there will be a cut to the low 35 teams and ties at the 35th position.
IN CASE OF A TIE: If two or more teams are tied after the regulation 72 holes, then they will participate in a sudden-death playoff using the Four-ball format.
WITH A WIN: The Zurich Classic of New Orleans will continue to award FedExCup points and official money, and will count as an official victory for the members of the winning team. As such, both players will receive a two-year winner’s exemption and an eligibility into Invitational fields, including the Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship. Additionally, the PGA of America will include both members of the winning team in the Tournament Winners category for the PGA Championship.
PRIZES: FedExCup points and prize money will be awarded to teams making the cut based on combining every two positions from the distribution table for a standard TOUR event, with each team member receiving an equal share. For instance, the winning team will evenly split first and second place FedExCup points (500 for first and 300 for second for 800 total points, or 400 for each player). Official prize money will be distributed in the same manner.
Why was the format changed?
The PGA TOUR Policy Board approved the change in November, 2016 as a way to introduce team competition into the regular TOUR schedule. Said Andy Pazder, Chief of Operations for the PGA TOUR: "We have seen the growth of popularity with the biennial team competitions like the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and World Cup and the excitement that they produce. We believe the fans will love to see this sort of competition as a regular part of our season."
Has there ever been a team competition on the PGA TOUR?
Yes. The PGA TOUR has held 61 previous official team events, with two pros paired together, using various formats. The PGA TOUR has contested 13 official team tournaments with a pro paired with an amateur (the pro always earning official-win designation). The last official TOUR team event was the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship, won by Vance Heafner and Mike Holland.
How is the Zurich Classic format different?
The Zurich Classic will use an alternating-round Foursomes and Four-ball format for the first time. The closest the PGA TOUR has previously come to using a Foursomes format in an official event was at the 1934 Pinehurst Pro-Pro played at Pinehurst's famed No. 2 course and won by Tommy Armour and Bobby Cruickshank. That tournament played under Scotch Foursomes rules, a setup that allows each player to hit a drive on each hole and then whichever player's ball is in the best position, the teammate hits the next shot in alternate-shot fashion until the ball is held. The Foursomes format at TPC Louisiana will strictly be alternate shot for every shot played on the hole.
How were the teams selected?
As noted above, players with the higher priority ranking was able to choose his partner. Reasons for choosing a teammate varied. Some have been partners in other team formats. Many were good friends and/or college teammates. Some were formed for strategic reasons, such as playing the same ball or complementing each other's style. In the case of Brooks Koepka, he choose a family member -- his younger brother Chase. For a closer look on how some teams were formed, click here.
What kinds of strategy are involved?
Teams face multiple decisions this week, especially in the Foursomes format that will be used Thursday and Saturday. Teams must pick which player will tee off on the even-numbered holes and which one will start the odd-numbered holes. Three of TPC Louisiana's four par-3s are odd-numbered holes, which may influence some teams' decisions. Each team also must decide which type of ball to use, often making sure that the player who will hit the approach shot will be hitting his brand of ball. For more on strategy this week, click here.
Who are the teams to watch?
There are two teams in which each member is ranked inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Jason Day (No. 3) and Rickie Fowler (No. 9) are both Zurich ambassadors and were the first team officially announced. Henrik Stenson (No. 6) and Justin Rose (No. 8) have prior experience as teammates at the Ryder Cup. The two other players in the field ranked in the top 10 are No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama (paired with Hideto Tanihara) and No. 5 Jordan Spieth (paired with Ryan Palmer). Matsuyama is also the highest-ranked player in FedExCup points at No. 2 on the list. Other teams with prior experience at the Presidents Cup include South Africans Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, and Americans Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes.
Which players have performed well at TPC Louisiana?
Ten winners of the Zurich Classic are in the field this week, including last year's champion Brian Stuard, who is partners with Chris Stroud. None of the 10 previous champions are paired together. Justin Rose, the 2015 champ, shot 22 under, the lowest score at this tournament since it was moved to its current course. Ben Martin, who is paired with Ben Crane, holds the course record with a bogey-free 10-under 62 shot in 2014.
What kind of scores can be expected?
The Four-ball format will offer lower scores than the Foursomes format, since teams have two chances to shoot under par on each hole. Said Jordan Spieth: "We're planning on something around 18- to 20-under for the week... 2- to 3-under in the alternate shot and somewhere around 8 (under) in the best ball."
How are the players viewing the change in format?
You hear one word over and over again: Fun. Having a different format than the normal stroke-play events -- and being able to pair up with friends -- has created a buzz amongst the players who are at TPC Louisiana this week. "The buzz around the PGA TOUR has been amazing," said Ben Crane. "I've never seen a tournament with so much buzz around it, the increased amount with the players. We've been talking about since January. It's pretty cool to see and it's fun to see who's playing with their friends."