The Tour heads to the Big Easy this week for the rejuvenated Zurich Classic, which will be played as a two-man team event for the first time in the event’s history. The format change was an effort by the Tour to spice things up and break up the monotony of a calendar filled with 72-hole stroke play. The format of this week’s tournament will be 72 holes of team play with the field playing alternate shot on Thursday and best ball on Friday. After the field is cut to the top 35 teams and ties, teams will play alternate shot again on Saturday and best ball on Sunday. Full field and tee times.
I win in my white tee
Brian Stuard captured the championship last year while rocking a rarely-seen white undershirt. Stuard triumphed in a playoff over Jamie Lovemark and Byeong-hun An. Why did he win? Because he didn’t make a bogey the entire week! The tournament was plagued by thunderstorms and inclement weather, causing a 54-hole, rain-shortened event and a Monday finish. The event served as the coming out party for now-PGA Tour rookie Bobby Wyatt, who held the lead late into his final round despite entering the week without status on any professional tour. His fourth place finish earned him a nice check and a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals, where he earned his PGA Tour card.
Touring the TPC’s
In the second of a stretch of four TPC courses in five weeks, the world’s best will take on Pete Dye’s TPC Louisiana. The course has many of the Dye characteristics you would expect – wide fairways guarded with ample hazards and undulating greens with small tiers that reward great shots and repel average ones. The course is relatively non-descript and unmemorable but it still stands as one of the best courses in New Orleans, which may be a testament to how bad of a golf city NOLA is.
The squads to watch
The PGA Tour wanted to make this event serious and did so by awarding FedEx Cup points along with a two-year winner’s exemption for each team member. The new format has lead to a renewed interest from fans and players in what has historically been a snoozer. Here are a few teams to watch, either for their stellar play or odd pairing…
Spencer Levin - Rocco Mediate
I honestly couldn’t find a more obscure pairing, Levin is best known for his history of on-course meltdowns while Rocco Mediate is an easy-going vet who plays mostly on the Senior circuit.
Justin Rose - Henrik Stenson
Regular Ryder Cup partners, major champion winners, both ranked in the top ten of the world and 1-2 finishers at last year’s Olympics.
Brooks & Chase Koepka
Last week’s runner-up is bringing his younger brother Chase along this week. Chase stared at University of South Florida and plays on the European Tour’s developmental tour, the Challenge Tour. This week offers a golden opportunity for the younger Koepka to earn his spot on the PGA Tour or at least more starts.
Jason Day - Rickie Fowler
We haven’t seen much from Jason Day recently and what we have seen hasn’t been pretty. His partner has been terrific in 2017, with his worst finish in his last six starts a T16.
Trey Mullinax - Bobby Wyatt
A pair of rookies and former college teammates at Alabama, these two will look to earn valuable FedExCup points and improve their rankings. Wyatt earned his spot on the PGA Tour through his strong finish in last year’s event and will look to turn around a disappointing 2017 campaign which has seen him miss four of five cuts.
Louis Oosthuizen - Branden Grace
The South African pair will team up in a preview of what could be a solid President’s Cup duo. Both come with laid-back demeanors and excellent tee-to-green games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see these two win.
KJ Choi - Charlie Wi
I just had a late 2000’s flashback. Apparently Charlie Wi is coming out of retirement for this one.
Bryson DeChambeau - Rory Sabbatini
I’m just gonna let you marinate on this one.
More on the teams and the event
I circled back with NLU’s Tron Carter and Skratch’s DJ Piehowski last night on the podcast to talk more about the event, pairings and New Orleans in general. Listen on our website, iTunes or Stitcher.
Last week’s Kevin Chappell pick was Paulie’s third winner in four weeks and his fifth in 2017. While Draftkings is off this week, he has his favorite one and done picks and odds picks, check them out here.
In the far East
The European Tour makes their second consecutive start in China for the Volvo China Open. Headlining the field is last week’s winner Bernd Wiesberger, Chris Wood, Ross Fisher and defending champion Li Haotong. The field will take on the Topwin Golf and Country Club, which is nestled under the Great Wall of China and stands as a strong test of ball-striking with abundant hazards and undulating greens.
The college rundown
Monday saw the Vanderbilt Commodores complete the sweep of the SEC Championship, taking down Texas A&M in the finals of the match play portion. Vandy has had a spectacular season and – led by stars Matthias Schwab and Patrick Martin – stand as one of the nation’s strongest title contenders.
Through two days at the Big 12 Championship, Texas and second-ranked Oklahoma State are deadlocked at the top through three rounds. Officials were forced to halt the scheduled second round on Monday due to high winds at Prairie Dunes, which made the course play extremely difficult. Some of the nation’s best saw the teeth of the wide open Perry Maxwell setup and the scores showed it with Round 1’s scoring average settling in at 79.6 (9-over par). Scores were back to normal in Round 2 and the championship will complete play today, with Brad Dalke and Scottie Scheffler tied for the individual lead.
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes. The internet got all up in arms over the USGA and R&A’s emergency changes to the rules of golf due to the Lexi Thompson’s penalty at last month’s ANA Inspiration. They decided to take a stand against video evidence and created two different types of reviewable actions, allowing for video when the ruling couldn’t be caught with the naked eye, such as a ball moving during a backswing or sand in a bunker. The other ruling – non reviewable by video evidence – is a player’s use of their “reasonable judgement” when carrying out a drop or replacing a marked ball. Overall, I think the changes are good for the game; video shouldn’t play a large role in championships. But in the grand scheme of things it’s minor news that will affect less than 1 percent of tournaments played in a year.