Within the cadence of the 2018-19 PGA TOUR season, a new rhythm exists.
The downbeat occurred in earnest with the return of THE PLAYERS Championship to March, and it's maintained a toe-tapping groove that has included unique events like the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play and this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
There's no better place than the birthplace of jazz to keep the jam going. This is the third edition of the team format in which there are 80 duets, if you will. It's a phenomenal opportunity for fans to learn more about the relationships and harmony between players.
POWER RANKINGS: ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS
RANK TEAM COMMENT No. 10 Cameron Smith & Jonas Blixt As one of only two teams who have figured out how to prevail in this format, they demand respect. Smith's ascent remains steady. Blixt's form of late is particularly inspiring. No. 9 Tony Finau & Kyle Stanley Finau placed sixth with Daniel Summerhays last year. Now he's connected with a long-hitting ball-striker. After a slump, Stanley has recorded top 25s in two of last three starts. No. 8 Louis Oosthuizen & Charl Schwartzel No one will be more comfortable with his partner than either South African. Together they finished third here last year. The question mark is Schwartzel's recent form. No. 7 Jon Rahm & Ryan Palmer Potentially the most explosive combo on the stage. They complement each other so well with their personalities and Palmer's knack to get hot could be the game changer. No. 6 Henrik Stenson & Graeme McDowell
Despite finding themselves on multiple teams as professionals, they haven't partnered until now. G-Mac still is within a month removed from winning at Corales. No. 5 Patrick Reed & Patrick Cantlay Together they finished T14 in 2017 and T7 last year. Cantlay stayed hot with a T3 at Harbour Town last week, while Reed rested after a T36 in title defense at the Masters. No. 4 Sergio Garcia & Tommy Fleetwood Only half of Moliwood, but El Niño was on the same Ryder Cup team. Since Paris, this duo has combined for 15 top 10s. Fleetwood finished T4 here last year (with Chris Paisley). No. 3 Kevin Kisner & Scott Brown After losing in a playoff in 2017, they led outright after 54 holes last year only to finish T15. Kisner is still glowing post-Match Play victory. Brown has three top 10s in 2019.
No. 2 Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy The defending champs. Each has performed very well throughout 2018-19, albeit at different times. After taking a month off, Piercy is fresh off a T3 at Harbour Town. No. 1 Jason Day & Adam Scott Expectations are arguably highest for the Aussies. They obliterated the field on home soil at the 2013 World Cup of Golf. Only partnership since was at the 2015 Presidents Cup (0-0-1).
Brooks Koepka & Chase Koepka
Bubba Watson & J.B. Holmes
Jason Kokrak & Chris Stroud
Branden Grace & Justin Harding
Russell Knox & Brian Stuard
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf omits the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, so Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will be presented in an abridged format.
As it was for 11 editions of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans as an individual event, TPC Louisiana is the backdrop for the PGA TOUR's only team competition. All 160 in the field are professionals.
The first and third rounds are scored as best ball (also known as four-ball), while the second and fourth rounds are scored using alternate shot (also known as foursomes). Teams inside the top 35 and ties at the conclusion of 36 holes will make the cut. The secondary-cut provision (i.e. MDF) does not apply.
TPC Louisiana is a scorable par 72 with the full complement of four par 5s. It can stretch to 7,425 yards. Only the bermuda greens are overseeded, and they're prepped to run upwards of 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. While that speed is standard for TOUR tracks, severe undulations contribute to the challenge and the targets average just 5,225 square feet. Together they elevate the value of proximity to the hole on approach.
Because fairways are welcoming and in part because of the format, long hitters are encouraged to show us what they got, at least in best ball. The field's average of distance of all drives for the first two spins as a team competition slotted TPC Louisiana inside the top-half shortest. By comparison, last year's clip of 278.7 yards was one-tenth of one yard shorter than Sea Island's Seaside Course, host of The RSM Classic and not considered a bomber's paradise.
Still, encouraging the thought of stepping on it is semi-dormant bermuda rough cut to just one-and-three-quarters inches this year. That's down one-quarter of an inch from 2018.
Spring in the bayou always include the threat of inclement conditions, but this week's complications are isolated pre-cut. After a mild risk might gurgle on Thursday afternoon, the more probable concern is forecast for Friday afternoon. Otherwise, it'll be quite nice with daytime highs flirting with 80 degrees and light-to-moderate winds throughout.
When the winners are crowned on Sunday, each will receive 400 FedExCup points. That's the average between first and second place in regular individual competitions. Similarly split, each co-champion will pocket $1,051,200.00. Both will earn two-year membership exemptions or an additional season to the maximum of five from the current if already exempt through 2020-21. They'll also secure exemptions into next month's PGA Championship, the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions, the 2020 PLAYERS and other invitationals if not currently eligible.
Official World Golf Ranking points are not distributed for this tournament, but the top-five teams are eligible for the top-10 provision that grants entry into next week's Wells Fargo Championship.
Assuming you like what you experience, you'll love the reminder that at the conclusion of last year's edition, Zurich Insurance extended its partnership with the tournament through 2026.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton covers numerous angles in between tournaments. Look for his following contributions this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.