Power Rankings: Zurich Classic of New Orleans
April 19, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer are the team to watch at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
The weekly anticipation until tee times drop and featured groups are released on Tuesdays has nothing on the level of advance intrigue concerning the makeup of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Some partnerships in the two-man competition are telegraphed weeks and months in advance, but when the field publishes with confirmations of all 80 teams, the buzz is unique.
An explanation of the format, analysis of TPC Louisiana and more information is detailed beneath a ranking of 10 teams and five others teams to consider.
POWER RANKINGS: ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS
RANK TEAM COMMENT No. 10. David Hearn & Seamus Power Editor's note: Seamus Power has withdrawn from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after testing positive for COVID-19. Zack Sucher will now partner with David Hearn. Hearn always has played well here, but his fit has been manifested since teaming with Power in 2018 when they finished T10. They also placed T5 in 2019. Although quiet of late, this duo demands respect. No. 9 Cameron Champ & Tony Finau In terms of form over time, they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, so they’re a compelling pair beyond their joint affinity for the long ball. Each hits GIR regularly, but only Finau’s putting is relatively consistent. No. 8 Collin Morikawa & Matthew Wolff Both are tournament debutants. Because Morikawa is the only who descended with form, this presents as a springboard for Wolff. Each is only two years removed from regular team competition. No. 7 Danny Willett & Tyrrell Hatton Willett, who is a first-timer, has work to do to qualify for the Ryder Cup, so a strong showing with his fellow Brit this week would serve multiple purposes. Each has flashed form throughout 2021. No. 6 Billy Horschel & Sam Burns Lots of firepower here. Burns’ “reward” for going 0-for-2 at TPC Louisiana is a partnership with the 2018 co-champion. Horschel is the recent winner of the Match Play. Also shared runner-up honors at The Concession. No. 5 Brendon Todd & Chris Kirk The last time this event was held, Todd was 1,560th in the OWGR. Today, he’s 55th. He reunites with his fellow Georgia Bulldog (MC, 2017) who has three top 10s among six top 25s in 2021. Collectively the total package. No. 4 Marc Leishman & Cameron Smith After winning the inaugural with Jonas Blixt in 2017, Smith went 0-for-2 with the Swede. Fellow Aussie, Leishman, is making his team debut in NOLA. It’ll be an early exercise for the 2022 Presidents Cup, too. No. 3 Bubba Watson & Scottie Scheffler Perhaps the elite of the mutually beneficial collaborations. Watson is a veteran in both formats and prevailed in 2011. Scheffler is a first-timer is tiptop form. They might lead the field in greens in regulation. No. 2 Xander Schauffele & Patrick Cantlay Cantlay hasn’t missed an edition but it’s his first without Patrick Reed alongside. He pivots to a consistently strong Schauffele (T11, 2017) to inspire a turnaround. Arguably the best combo pound for pound. No. 1 Jon Rahm & Ryan Palmer Fittingly, the defending champs squared off in Group Stage at the Match Play three weeks ago and tied their match (before Rahm won the tiebreaker to advance). Both are in form upon arrival.
Joel Dahmen & Lanto Griffin
Max Homa & Talor Gooch
Richy Werenski & Peter Uihlein
Louis Oosthuizen & Charl Schwartzel
Alex Noren & Henrik Norlander
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans does not contribute to PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, so Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will be abridged.
Naturally, the fun isn’t limited to the fans to digest who’s teamed with whom at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. For all 160 committed to play, it’s a unique wrinkle in the middle of the season and positioned not long after an exceptionally challenging stretch of competition. When the local food and culture are accepted as perks of making the trip, it could feel like a bonus since guys play any variety of home games with a partner.
Best ball will be used for scoring in the first and third rounds; alternate shot will measure performance in the second and fourth rounds. Since last season’s edition was canceled, this is the first staging of the four (since 2017) with a 36-hole cut of low 33 teams and ties.
Each member of the winning team is credited with an official victory and the customary two-year membership exemption (or extension of one year up to the maximum of five, if applicable). Each winner receives exemptions into next month’s PGA Championship, the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions and the 2022 PLAYERS Championship, among other invitationals. While bragging rights are forever, those rewards exceed whatever exchange occurs on the last green of their private matches.
Members of the top-five teams at the conclusion of the tournament will be exempt into next week’s Valspar Championship via the top-10 provision, if necessary.
Another benefit exists in the absence of a negative; that is, because Official World Golf Ranking points are not assigned, the tournament does not contribute to the divisor for all of the entrants. So, a missed cut does no harm.
A couple of days after Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer celebrated victory at TPC Louisiana in 2019, the course underwent a six-month renovation. Its wide-ranging attention included a modernization of the fairways and greens fitted with Celebration bermudagrass and TifEagle bermuda, respectively. Only the putting surfaces have been overseeded. They’re prepared to run up to 12-and-a-half feet on the Stimpmeter, weather pending.
It’s likely that the greens will be as advertised as conditions for the opening round should be perfect. Things will turn come Friday and into Saturday due to a reasonable threat for inclement weather. With it, temperatures will rise into the mid-to-upper 70s. They’ll stay there for Sunday’s finale, which is forecast to be dry. Wind will be a persistent variable throughout the tournament.
The latest versions of the greens on the par-5 second and par-3 14th holes have new hole locations. Upwards of nine dozen bunkers were rebuilt and reshaped to reflect a proper challenge. Improving the drainage across the property was the through line for the work.
TPC Louisiana is a stock par 72 that stretches to 7,425 yards. Despite welcoming fairways framed by rough trimmed to 1.75 inches, it’s not a bomber’s paradise, but distance off the tee has increased since the advent of the team competition. However, hitting greens in regulation has gone in the other direction. Because the greens are undulating and segmented, precision on approach is at a premium. That’s multiplied in best ball with two looks into every green for as many as two rounds.
Ball-strikers, short-game wizards and streaky profiles define who prevailed and contended in the first three spins of the team event, but that doesn’t rule anyone out. It merely validates the essence of the competition.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider