Picking Up the Pace In The Big Easy
It’s easy to get distracted in New Orleans but the PGA Tour players in this week’s Zurich Classic will need to steer clear on one-too-many great meals and late nights if they hope to get the winner’s share of the $6.4 million purse by day’s end on Sunday.
With the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players coming up a lot of top players are taking a rest, leaving a perfect opportunity for somebody to make a bigger name for themselves
That was the case in 2010 when Jason Bohn won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans for his 2nd PGA Tour win. Bohn led the tournament after each round, opening with a 65 and concluding his podium march with birdies on three of his last four holes at TPC Louisiana. In the process he dashed the hope of Jeff Overton who contended most of the final round but fell two shots short in the end. Overton was actually tied for the lead with Bohn with four holes to play but could not keep up with Bohn’s and his hot finish.
Hopefully the weather is more favourable this year (and the forecast looks promising) as the 2010 edition of the tournament was plagued by rain on Friday and Saturday. Bohn had to play 54 holes in the two final days, including 30 on Sunday alone.
New Orleans has played host to the PGA Tour since 1938 and many players continue to find the place a favorable stop to enjoy the good things in life with the deep cultural roots, exceptional cuisine, and remarkable night life always on tap.
The Crescent City has also been kind to up and coming players like Bohn and even more to non-tour winners seeking their first victory. Four of the last six winners have made the Zurich Classic their maiden tour victory. That includes Tim Petorvic (2005), Chris Couch (2006), Nick Watney (2007) and Andres Romero (2008).
The odds are on that happening again this year with the firepower in Louisiana looking on the lean side this week. Just three players in the current top-10 of the World Golf Rankings are on hand. Luke Donald (3) arrives on the heels of a playoff loss at The Heritage and with such consistent form of late we should expect him to lurk on the board late into Sunday although I would not blame him for being a little spent from his recent run of good play. Also from the top ten will be Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker.
McDowell could be a good choice with TPC Louisiana demanding straight driving (he is 13th in driving accuracy on Tour this year) but with some fairly flat putting surfaces giving an advantage to great putters I expect Stricker to be the better of the two. Both will need to be their best off the tee, however, as they lag in driving distance and they’ll need plenty to tackle a 7,300+ yard course that is often enveloped in very heavy, humid air.
That said I will take Stricker as my pick for a winner this week. Coming off a tie for 4th at the Shell Houston Open and share of 11th at The Masters I think the nine-time PGA Tour winner is ready for his first of 2011.
As an alternate pick watch for Nick Watney to rebound from his 46th place showing at The Masters. He is rested and ready to return to the form that saw him tally a win and four additional top-ten finishes at the start of the season. As a past winner at the Zurich Classic he has proven he is comfortable here and knows what it takes to win.
Canadian Watch: There are four Canadians in the field this week including Stephem Ames, David Hearn, Matt McQuillan and Chris Baryla. McQuillan told Flagstick by phone on Tuesday night that he likes the course and its requirement for players to pick good target lines off the tee due to the flat landscape. “They tried to make it look very visually intimidated so you just have to trust your lines and that here is lots of room to drive the ball,” explained McQuillan. The 29 year-old also revealed that he has signed a deal with RBC to be part of their professional team of PGA Tour endorsees. That group already includes Canadians Stephen Ames, Mike Weir, Graham DeLaet and Chris Baryla. Along the other big names on the RBC team are Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, and Fred Couples.
2011 Zurich Classic of New Orleans Notes
Dates: April 25 – May 1, 2011
Where: TPC Louisiana, Avondale, LA
Par/Yards: 36-36—72 / 7,339
Defending Champion: Jason Bohn
Purse: $6,400,000; Winner’s Share: $1,152,000
Format: 72-hole stroke play