With THE PLAYERS Championship, the Masters and the other majors serving as downbeats in the cadence of the march toward the FedExCup Playoffs, tournaments like the Match Play and Zurich Classic of New Orleans are offbeats that help lock in the rhythm.
As the PGA TOUR’s only official two-man team competition, the annual stop in NOLA is another kind of offbeat, whimsical as it is, but everything goes in the birthplace of jazz, America’s original art form.
Continue reading after the projected contenders and others considered for a breakdown of the format, how TPC Louisiana expects to test and more.
POWER RANKINGS: ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS
RANK TEAM COMMENT No. 10. Sungjae Im & Byeong Hun An The South Koreans are back to avenge their MC last year. An was struggling at the time but he’s reversed course since losing his PGA TOUR card. Currently second in Korn Ferry Tour points and fresh off a T2 at the Veritex Bank Championship. No. 9 Keegan Bradley & Brendan Steele These long-time pals opened this format by missing the cut in 2017. They didn’t reunite until 2021 but they placed T4. Back together again because, you know, it feels so good, expectations remain elevated as both have been performing well of late. No. 8 Sergio Garcia & Tommy Fleetwood In their debut together in 2019, they finished alone in second, but they sat out last year’s edition. Fleetwood also finished T4 at TPC Louisiana in 2018, and he’s having the better 2021-22, so perhaps this is when he nabs his PGA TOUR breakthrough. No. 7 Collin Morikawa & Viktor Hovland Second appearance for each but it’s their first partnership. While among the glossiest duos on the tee sheet, each will need to rely on the other to sink putts. The ground game is their Achilles’ heel, so they might need to lead the field in GIR. No. 6 Danny Willett & Tyrrell Hatton Some teams need to fit the same profile to thrive, while these two are complements of each other. Both Brits have terrific short games – Willett is second in SG: Around-the Green; Hatton leads in SG: Putting. They debuted together last year for a T8. No. 5 Max Homa & Talor Gooch If these two aren’t already finishing each other’s sentences, they can finish each other’s holes. Both are exquisitely balanced throughout their bags. Back for their second start together, they should have zero trouble improving on last year’s T17. No. 4 Xander Schauffele & Patrick Cantlay As friends and practice buddies, they’re among the most natural teammates in the field. Cantlay still is chasing his first win of 2021-22, while Schauffele has been winless since the 2019 Sentry TOC. Debuted together last year for a T11. No. 3 Billy Horschel & Sam Burns Horschel has won this event as an individual (2013) and as a partner (2018), but he’s played his best in the team format. He and Burns placed T4 last year. Burns has two wins this season, including a successful title defense of the Valspar a month ago. No. 2 Cameron Smith & Marc Leishman Not only are the Australians the defending champions and among the cornerstones for the Internationals in the Presidents Cup, but Smith is a two-time winner in this format (with Jonas Blixt in 2017). He’s also a two-time winner in 2022. No. 1 Scottie Scheffler & Ryan Palmer Palmer is like the Pete Davidson of possibilities. From Jordan Spieth (2017) to Jon Rahm (2019, 2021), attractive talents want to be his partner. It’s paid off with a win among three top 10s. Now he matches with a fellow Texan who seemingly can’t lose.
Joaquin Niemann & Mito Pereira
Will Zalatoris & Davis Riley
Adam Hadwin & Adam Svensson
Matthew NeSmith & Taylor Moore
Sahith Theegala & Beau Hossler
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans does not contribute to PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, so Draws and Fades on Tuesday will be abridged
Eighty two-man teams have gathered at TPC Louisiana for the largest field on the PGA TOUR. All will follow the same format in every round.
Four-ball will be used for scoring in the opening round. Foursomes will be utilized for the second round. When two rounds are complete, the low 33 teams and ties will survive the cut and repeat the sequence of scoring for the third and final rounds, respectively.
Both members of the winning team will be credited with an official PGA TOUR victory and both will receive exemptions into next month’s PGA Championship as well as the 2023 editions of the Sentry Tournament of Championship and THE PLAYERS. Each also will have his membership extended through at least the 2023-24 season.
The distribution of FedExCup points and earnings will treat the final results as if an individual competition occurred. For example, instead of rewarding 500 FedExCup points to the winner and 300 to a solo runner-up, the winning team will split 800 points evenly. Prize money will be calculated similarly.
What isn’t in play is an impact on the Official World Golf Ranking. From that standpoint, divisors will not increase. That’s important for those who monitor their values like a stock portfolio in real time.
Unlike last year’s reveal of new fairways and greens at TPC Louisiana, nothing has changed since last year’s edition of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Well, no modifications were planned, that is. The impact of Hurricane Ida’s pass last August has required a few hundred trees to be planted as well as significant attention paid to the bunkers that were damaged. For the fifth spin as a team competition, overseeded TifEagle bermuda greens are governed to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter.
With the absence of overseed and sluggish growth of the only layer of rough (up to two inches), guys who can move it off the tee on the 7,425-yard stock par 72 will be encouraged regardless of the round. As is the case in every shootout, particularly this team competition that’s yielded winners of 20-under and lower in the first four stagings, the primary objective will be to pile up scoring opportunities.
The targets at TPC Louisiana can be tricky what with their segments and undulations. Considering the promise of persistent winds throughout the tournament, including gusts exceeding 20 mph, strategy in foursomes could be a gamechanger. Daytime highs in the 80s is forecast. Rain is not a threat.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.