A strong field shows up to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this week in support of the event’s new format.
Six of the world’s top 10 enter as the tournament tees-off as a team competition for the first time.
Having been played as a standard, solo stroke-play event since its inception in 1938, the Zurich Classic has a new format of 80 pairings, made up of the top 80 available Tour ranking players and their choice of playing partner; although their partner must be eligible via PGA Tour status or sponsor exemption.
The tournament remains stroke play but, due to the pairings, rounds one and three play as foursomes (alternate shot) and rounds two and four as four-balls (better ball). The cut is still made at the halfway stage, with the top 35 pairings and ties making it through to the weekend.
The likes of Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson all take to TPC Louisiana this week for the strongest fielded event since the Masters three weeks ago. Notable, and favourite, pairings this week include Day and Rickie Fowler, world-number-six Henrik Stenson with Masters runner-up Justin Rose and South African duo Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.
Brooks Koepka enters on the back of his second place finish at the Valero Texas Open last week and has elected his brother, European Challenge Tour player Chase Koepka, to be his playing partner for the week. Kevin Chappell pipped the elder Koepka to the title at TPC San Antonio last week and will partner world-number-42 Gary Woodland.
The significance of past winners here may be limited because of the change of format this year, but the partners of Brian Stuard, Rose, Seung-yul Noh, Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Jason Bohn, Jerry Kelly and Nick Watney can all take confidence in the success of their partners around TPC Louisiana in the past.
The course opened in 2004 and has hosted this event since 2005, with the exception of 2006. A lengthy 7425 yard par 72, TPC Louisiana is build on wetlands and combines short, intricate holes with longer, powerful holes to give no playing style a particular edge. The par five 18th is perhaps the most famous hole on the course with water stretching down the entirety of the right side of the hole. But, if it’s played correctly, it can offer an eagle opportunity late in the round. Scoring is generally pretty low when TPC Louisiana hosts. Since its first tournament in 2005, winning scores have ranged from a high of 13-under to a low of Rose’s 22-under in 2015.
The purse is at its highest ever of $7,100,000 this year, but because of the paired system, the winners share is actually down to $1,022,400 from $1,260,000 as the winning pair share the money that would be divided between first and second. Likewise, the winning pair will share the 500 and 300 FedExCup points offered to first and second and, therefore, receive 400 points apiece.
The players arrive in full confidence of the event this week, let’s hope the new format delivers the excitement everyone is anticipating.