Power Rankings: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

April 23, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

Not only is Bubba Watson the reigning Masters champion, he's also defending his title at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

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He did what he does best at TPC Louisiana a year ago, leading the field in distance off the tee (331.2 yards) and co-leading it in greens in regulation (58 of 72). And that was after he admitted that the course doesn't fit his eye.

TPC Louisiana has added 26 yards since Watson outlasted Webb Simpson in a playoff last year, and is now capable of stretching 7,425 yards. The field of 156 will see the added length on the par-4 13th hole. Previously, long hitters would attempt to reach what is the smallest green on the property from the tee on a 377-yard dogleg left. This hole now reads 403 yards on the scorecard. Course general manager Luke Farabaugh told The Times-Picayune in March that the hole was lengthened to maintain flow and avert a backup on the tee. This is to say that the green is no longer drivable.

Other changes were made to a bunker on the par-4 16th hole to aid in the visual approach and the bunkering around the green at the par-5 finisher. The modifications at 18 are expected to reward guys that go for the green in two, which should provide for an exciting conclusion.

Overall, TPC Louisiana has ranked among the most difficult tracks on the PGA TOUR in terms of proximity to the hole. It's hosted six times (2005, 2007-2011) and has ranked inside the top 10 in the last four years, including inside the top five the last three. That's a direct nod to the undulating putting surfaces that help protect scoring.

The host course averaged 72.111 in 2011, seventh-most difficult of 21 par 72s in non-majors all year. That split is aided by the fact that the par 5s ranked T11 at 4.75.

Seasonable weather is forecast this week. A mild threat of rain cannot be ruled out on the weekend, if not Friday, depending on how fast the system drifts east. Temperatures will climb into the low to mid-80s throughout. Wind will serve the primary challenge as usual as sustained breezes are already expected to hit double digits.

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Power Rankings: Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Rank Player   Comment
Ends a two-week break since a tie for 12th at the Masters where he scored progressively better each round (75-72-71-68). Logged four top 15s in six starts on TOUR this year. Currently 21st in greens in regulation and 11th in adjusted scoring.
He's finished inside the top 15 in three of his last four starts at TPC Louisiana, including a T13 last year. Already a winner this season at the season-opener at Kapalua, he's 12th on TOUR in greens hit and 23rd in the all-around ranking.
Returns to action after a two-week respite following a T27 at the Masters. That was his first result outside the top 25 in 10 starts this season. Leads the PGA TOUR in the all-around ranking and sits seventh in adjusted scoring average.
Tied for eighth place here last year in his only appearance, ranking T3 in greens hit and T5 in birdies for the week. Overall in 2012, he's second on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained-Putting, 20th in adjusted scoring and 40th in the all-around.
Back in action since his major breakthrough at the Masters. Carded just six holes over par en route to his playoff victory here a year ago. Leads the TOUR in distance off the tee, ranks second in greens hit and ninth in adjusted scoring.
Top 10s in each of the last three years at this tournament. He's finished inside the top 25 in his last four starts this season. Ranks 32nd on TOUR in greens in regulation, 20th in adjusted scoring and eighth in the all-around ranking.
Coming off his second straight share of eighth place (Shell Houston Open; Valero Texas Open). Ranks 16th on TOUR in total driving and 35th in both greens hit and Strokes Gained-Putting. Tied for 18th at last year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Arrives in the bayou red-hot after a solo second in Houston and a five-stroke victory at Harbour Town. Sits 51st on TOUR in greens in regulation, 17th in Strokes Gained-Putting, sixth in adjusted scoring and 14th in the all-around.
First start since a T8 at the Masters, his third top 10 in his last five events. Since a T17 at TPC Louisiana in 2005, he's missed two cuts and finished T43 (2010) at the host track, but he's fifth on TOUR in greens hit and third in adjusted scoring.
Makes the trip from the Volvo China Open where he was low man on Sunday with a 65 to finish T14. Inside the top 50 in all relevant stats on the PGA TOUR, including 14th in greens hit, 27th in adjusted scoring and sixth in the all-around.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at TPC Louisiana:

11. Matt Every ... Shared runner-up honors at last week's Valero Texas Open where he established the course record (63) in the opening round. It was a career-best finish on the PGA TOUR and his fourth top 10 of the year. Ranks 27th in adjusted scoring.

12. Charles Howell III ... Hasn't missed a cut in nine starts at this event, including four at TPC Louisiana. Co-runner-up in 2009; placed T13 last year. Sits 40th on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation, 51st in Strokes Gained-Putting and 29th in the all-around.

13. Bud Cauley ... The first-timer at TPC Louisiana has recorded top 20s in four of his last five starts, including a T18 at the Valero Texas Open where he ranked T8 in greens hit. Overall, the rookie is 51st on TOUR in GIR, 22nd in adjusted scoring and 28th in the all-around.

14. Webb Simpson ... Victim of an unfortunate penalty at the 15th green in his final round here last year, and ultimately lost in a playoff. Struggled a bit lately with zero top 35s in his last three starts, but ranks 39th in adjusted scoring and 33rd in the all-around.

15. David Toms ... Can't omit the Louisiana State product and former champion at the event (2001). Shared fifth place at TPC Louisiana in 2009 and placed T18 last year. Last played at the Masters, where he finished T50. Hasn't scored par or better in his last six rounds.