Inside the Ropes
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
TPC Louisiana, Avondale, LA
Yards: 7,425 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Average green size: 5,700 square feet
Stimpmeter: 11 ft.
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Pete Dye (2003)
Notes: TifSport Bermudagrass with Miniverde Bermudagrass greens;
Winner’s Share: $1,152,000 and 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson defeated Webb Simpson with a birdie on the second playoff hole.
Date: April 26-29
Notes: Gamers please note that the TPC Avondale has been the host course for this event since 2005 but the tournament was not played here in 2006 due to the damage from Hurricane Katrina. Horse-for-course picks should look at 2005 and 2007-2011.
This is the 53rd annual PGA stop in the New Orleans area.
In the six events hosted by TPC Louisiana, three first-time winners have emerged. Tim Petrovic (2005), Nick Watney (2007) and Andres Romero (2008) all claimed their first Tour victories in New Orleans.
Previous winners of this event on this track that are in the field this week include Bubba Watson, Jason Bohn (2010), Jerry Kelly (2009), Andres Romero and Tim Petrovic. K.J. Choi (2002) and David Toms (2001) are also previous winners of this event not played at TPC Avondale in the field this week.
In 2012 11 of the 17 winners (18 events) on Tour won when they were ranked in the top 50 OWGR (Hunter Mahan has two wins). Ten of the OWGR top 25 are entered this week including four of the top 10 (Donald, Watson, Stricker and Rose). Of the top 50 OWGR, 19 players are entered this week.
In 17 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-7-2 as Ben Curtis scores another point for the “middle” with his win last week.
For the “young”, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33) Carl Pettersson (34) and now Ben Curtis (34) in the “middle”.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “old” folks on Tour this season.
After a three-week streak by the Internationals was broken up by a three-week streak by U.S. players, the Internationals and U.S. players have now alternated the last two weeks. It’s obviously a global game for twenty and thirty-something golfers based on the first 18 tournaments of 2012.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
The course is 7,520 yards long and a stern test for PGA Tour players and guests. The course is designed to give players a good shot, but challenge their shot making ability. The rough is not severe but there is plenty of trouble if players stray from the fairways.
Another week, another Pete Dye course! Harbour Town, TPC San Antonio and now this week at TPC Louisiana will make it three-in-a-row for Pete Dye designs on Tour.
TPC Louisiana ranked 20th out of 51 courses on Tour as most difficult in 2011 which includes the four majors.
In the six seasons that TPC Louisiana has hosted the tournament, almost 15-under par has been the winning average score. Par was a decent round last week at TPC San Antonio. That will not be the case this week. The tee ball will not be as important this week as we’ve seen the last two weeks because of the generous fairways and light rough. Iron play and putting take center stage this week. Players who hit the correct part of the undulating greens will have more success than those who don’t or miss the green all together. It’s tough to get them close here so I’m looking for guys who can make that happen plus I’ll take a look at those who can get them in the hole as well.
After grinding it out in Hill Country last week, the Big Easy (he’s here too!) is ready for to see some birdies this week.
Time to put down the crawfish and PUT DOWN the hurricanes and get to ranking this week’s field.
Bourbon Street Standouts:
Sure, it’s where everyone visits when they are in N’awlins, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of those establishments. Five must-look players this week start us off.
Keegan Bradley: After finishing T27 at the Masters, Bradley has taken two weeks off to recharge his busy battery. He’s 10-for-10 in cuts made in 2012 and his only non-top 25 was T27 at Augusta. He’s currently ranked first in the all-around category and has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s 23rd GIR and 25th strokes gained-putting in addition to being 13th in scrambling. He’s 9th in birdie-or-better conversion and is in the top 15 in birdies or better on par threes, fours and fives. The only piece of this puzzle that is missing is a trophy and that comes this week. Remember when long putters were all the rage? How many guys have won with long putters this year? Three (Stanley, Pettersson and Haas)? Help me out, readers! His only finish at TPC Louisiana was T26 last season.
Steve Stricker: Stricker only has one round of his last eight in the 60’s but he’s never fared well at Augusta and SHO before that was his first tournament in three weeks. He’s taken another three-week vacation and his return to TPC Louisiana will be a welcome sight. Stricker played here last year and finished T13. He was T7 in 2009 (DNS 2010), CUT and T11 in 2008. He’s 12th in GIR and 11th in scrambling. Oh, and he’s made 48 consecutive cuts.
Bubba Watson: When we last left Watson, he was being asked by David Letterman how to describe his golf game. Without missing a beat, he replied, “awesome”. Ah, yes, “Bubba-golf”. Watson’s worst finish in full-field, stroke-play events in 2012 is T13. I read today that nobody has ever won the money title while leading the Tour in driving distance. He’s not to the money title yet but the way Watson is playing right now, I wouldn’t rule anything off his list of things to do in 2012. He’s the defending champion here and if you remember from last year, he really doesn’t like this course. Strange as he’s made the cut in four of five tournaments and has a WIN and T5 in 2007. Imagined if he actually “liked” this place…
Justin Rose: I’m not enamored with Rose’s history at TPC Louisiana but I’m having a hard time finding glaring weaknesses in his game currently. He’s fifth in GIR and third in scoring this season and already has a win at the WGC-CC at Doral where he came from behind to defeat Bubba Watson on Sunday. His expert iron play will come in handy this week and his current form is excellent. In his last two stroke-events Rose finished T15 API and T8 at the Masters. He hasn’t finished worse than T33 in 2012.
Cameron Tringale: Tringale has shown excellent form the last two outings finishing T8 at SHO and last week at VTO. Add this to his T4 at FIO and he’s already had an excellent 2012. He’s played the TPC Louisiana the last two years and has finished T18 and T28. Tringale is 35th in GIR and 36th in strokes gained-putting. It’s about time the youngsters besides John Huh started carrying their weight!
One Dozen Oysters, please:
Twelve more who I think will slide into the top 25 this week.
Graeme McDowell: Another hot player in stroke-play events, GMAC has only one poor finish on his card in 2012, T63 at SHO after a closing round 77. It didn’t start much better the following week at Augusta with 75 to open but McDowell fired 71-68 on the weekend to finish T12 his last time out. McDowell has hit the top 10 with T9 at Honda and second at API this season as well. McDowell makes his living with his iron play as he’s 21st GIR this season on Tour and that will be his big advantage this week.
Jason Dufner: After missing the cut at his season-opener at Sony, Dufner has banged out nine consecutive cuts on Tour. Six of those finishes are in the top 25 including his last four outings and I don’t see that slowing down this week. In his four appearances at TPC Louisiana Dufner has finished T3, T7, T9, DNS and T44 in 2007. Unlike Bubba Watson, Dufner seems to like it here.
Luke Donald: “Form is temporary, class is permanent” goes the old saying. After hearing last weekend during the broadcast that Luke Donald was concerned about his short game, I’m now concerned about where I rank him. The world No. 2 is currently 137 GIR but is second in strokes gained-putting and second in scrambling so you see how valuable his short game is to his success. After winning at TC Donald has finished T32 at the Masters and T37 at RBC Heritage in his last two outings. I have no doubt after his T8 finish last year that he can contend but his last two outings have been off based on his lofty standards.
Charles Howell III: It seems like he’s in this category more times than not throughout the season. The only CUT he’s missed in the 2012 season was NTO in February. Since that CUT, he’s finished no worse than 29th and no better than 17th so if you’re looking for a safe pick this week he’s your man. If you’re looking to make a move this week he also might be your man as he’s finished T13, T43 and T2 in his last three outings at TPC Louisiana.
Peter Hanson: The Swede couldn’t hold on to the 54-hole lead at Augusta his last time out but he is hardly the first (or last) player to do that. Currently ranked sixth in the all-around Hanson has been destroying par fours with birdies or better (second overall on Tour) and is 24th in total putting. He was T5 at WGC-Match Play, T4 WGC-CC, and T3 at the Masters so big fields won’t put him off his game.
Carl Pettersson: It’s hard to argue with Pettersson’s record lately as he has finished WIN and second his last two times on the links. He’s riding a streak of eight-straight rounds under par so there’s no point in jumping off this week especially when he ranks 17th in strokes gained-putting and 11th in birdie-or-better conversions. He’s also second on Tour in par-four performance (-12) this season. If his routine leading up to his excellent play was a few beers and a tub of ice cream, I would love to have seen what was on the spread celebrating his last two outings! He’s an underrated player that shouldn’t be dismissed as we move on in 2012. Thanks to all who clarified that Pettersson, who just became a U.S. citizen, would be able to only play for Europe in the Ryder Cup because it’s based on country of birth, not citizenship.
Harris English/Bud Cauley: I’m not letting last weekend’s 80-75 finish dissuade me from staying on the English bandwagon. His numbers are just too good and this course fits his game awfully well. Cauley rebounded again from a less-than-stellar Saturday for a 68 on Sunday. We’ve seen Cauley grind out results all season long and he’s currently five on-the-trot in cuts made with his worst finish being T37 at RBC two weeks ago.
Greg Chalmers: The complete opposite of countryman John Senden, Chalmers is known for struggling to hit GIR but his short game and putter are the keys to his success. One of the shortest hitters on Tour (162nd in driving distance) Chalmers has found a way to thrive in New Orleans finishing T8, fifth and T24 in his last three outings. Chalmers saw three solid rounds blow up on Sunday last week at VTO with 78, but in his eight finishes in 2012, he’s never been worse than T35.
Matt Every: In the six cuts Every has made this season he’s finished in the top 25 five times and the top 10 four times. He officially has my attention. In his last two outings Every has been T8 at RBC and T2 last week. Every doesn’t have any stats that jump off the page as he’s solid throughout his game and finds a way to get the ball in the hole which is the name of the game.
Brian Davis: Speaking of hot golfers Brian Davis has finished his last three events T4 API, T4 SHO and T13 at RBC. Davis has made the cut at TPC Louisiana in five of six career starts and has hit the top 19 twice. Davis is ranked 20th in total putting and 21st in scrambling which has helped him to make six cuts on the bounce.
Ernie Els: After not qualifying for the Masters Els was CUT his next time out at RBC. According to his blog on PGATOUR.COM he was just as surprised that he didn’t play well at Harbour Town and chalked it up to a blip on the radar. Since March Els has finished T5, T4, T4, T12 and CUT at RBC. With as many greens as he hits Els will always give himself a chance. This is his first appearance at TPC Louisiana. So yes, I’m taking the Big Easy in The Big Easy. That was easy.
David Toms: The LSU graduate and hometown favorite is a past champion at this event but not at TPC Louisiana. No matter as Toms has finished T18, T28 and T5 in his last three outings at TPC Louisiana. His history here this week has to carry him because he hasn’t broke par in his last seven rounds on Tour. The two-week break after the Masters should have given Toms time to tune up before his “home” event this week.
We’ll start with the Saints, who this week have been alleged to be sinners, if you follow the NFL AND believe ESPN who broke the story. Wait, not those Saints? Oh, THOSE Saints! We’re looking for guys who might not be as popular as Drew Brees down here this week but just maybe should get a look at TPC Louisiana.
Lucas Glover: Each week I give you a pick where you have to stretttttttttttttttttttch to get your head around it and this week it’s Lucas Glover. Glover has played four events this season and has been CUT twice and finished T82 and T69. This defines a long shot. Glover’s record here is worth a look. He hasn’t played the last two years (I know, I know) but he was T19 in 2009, CUT, T8, and T7 on this course since it’s re-opening in 2007. That’s why it’s called a long shot!
Bob Estes: Similar to Glover, Estes’s last two years here have been barren, finishing CUT and CUT. Yet, from 2009-2007 he finished T13, T33 and T8. The Texan has finished the last two weeks T24 RBC and T4 VTO. His iron play was sharp last week, especially on the back nine on Sunday, but he couldn’t take advantage with the putter.
Charley Hoffman: The last two times out Hoffman has finished T13 VTO and T8 RBC. The four times before that he’s also made the cut so that’ six straight on the bounce and I like guys who’ve been playing well. His record at TPC Louisiana is decent with five cuts-made in six tries.
Brian Harman: This youngster has made nine of 11 cuts in 2012 and finished T18 last week. He’s made four cuts in a row so I’m jumping on!
Another time-honored tradition in the Crescent City finds some victims this week. Nobody does the voodoo like I do, sadly.
K.J. Choi in his last five stroke-play events has finished CUT, T36, T46, T35 and CUT. I’ll wait for the correction regardless of his record here.
Webb Simpson: In this last three outings Simpson has finished T36 API, T44 at the Masters and T52 RBC so I am officially backing off. I know, I know, he was second here last year but where Simpson falls in most games is too high to take a chance of the rebound this week with this deep of a field.
Nick Watney: The 2007 champion in the return to TPC Louisiana has also struggled in 2012 on Tour. His only top 10 finish is T9 at WGC-Match Play which means he was eliminated in the round of 16. He’s followed that with T17 WGC-CC at Doral, T51 TC, T59 API and T32 Masters. He was T20 last year, DNS, CUT, and T42 the year after he won. He’s made 16 straight cuts but currently is 94th in total putting and 139th in scrambling.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Zurich Classic
Group 1: Keegan Bradley
Group 2: Cameron Tringale
Group 3: Matt Every
Group 4: Nathan Green
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Steve Stricker-- He opened the season with a win at Kapalua and has played a light schedule coming into April. I like him because he has three top-13 finishes in his last four starts at TPC Louisiana.
Keegan Bradley-- You can plug any of a half a dozen Group A players in this spot. I'm going with Bradley because he has nine top-25s in ten starts on this year's TOUR with the best finish being a playoff second place at the NTO.
Charles Howell III, Luke Donald, Nick Watney, Webb Simpson
Bubba Watson-- It's hard to know where his game is after the grand tour he has made after his Masters win. He's played pretty well throughout the season, so I'm going to continue to roll with him.
Justin Rose-- I would normally fade Rose after looking at his recent record at TPC Louisiana, but he has been red hot over the last six weeks with a championship at Doral and a T8 at the Masters.
Ernie Els-- I was very surprised that Els missed the cut at the RBC Heritage, however a second round back nine of 8-over-par 43 will do that to you. Prior to that MC he had been one of the hottest golfers on the TOUR with a pair of top-5s and a T12 at the SHO.
Brian Davis-- Davis owners have been rewarded recently with a pair of T4s and a T13 at the RBC Heritage. He has five made cuts in six career starts at TPC Louisiana, with his best showing being a T19 in '09.
David Toms, Retief Goosen, Rickie Fowler, Geoff Ogilvy, Chris Stroud
Graeme McDowell-- McDowell has been hot all season with five top-13s in seven worldwide stroke-play events. He did miss the cut last year at the Zurich, but he struggled for most of the 2011 season and I don't give that missed cut a lot of weight.
Jason Dufner-- I'm rolling the dice with Dufner over Peter Hanson. Dufner has made the top-25 in his last four starts on the TOUR and he has finished in the top-10 in his last three starts (T9 in '09, T7 in '10 and T3 in '11) at TPC Louisiana.
Peter Hanson, Bud Cauley, Harris English, Cameron Tringale, Carl Pettersson
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Zurich Classic (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Steve Stricker
Group 2: Peter Hanson
Group 3: Bud Cauley
Group 4: Boo Weekley
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON. They will be breaking down the field at the Zurich Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.