As the PGA Tour begins to follow the European lead in attempting to modernise the game of golf, this week sees the newly formatted Zurich Classic of New Orleans take place at TPC Louisiana.
A tournament which was a traditional stroke play event last year has now been changed to a mixed foursomes (R1 & R3) and fourballs (R2 & R4) set-up.
Six of the world’s top ten will be teeing it up this week, but the fact that the two best players in the world, based upon the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), do not make the Thursday tee-time dilutes a modicum of the undoubted excitement surrounding this event.
400 FedEx Cup points are on offer for both winners this week.
TPC Louisiana was created by Pete Dye (in consultation with PGA Tour players Steve Elkington and Kelly Gibson) in 2004 and has been part of the Tournament Players Club network since its second season. Located in Avondale, Louisiana, it first hosted the Zurich Classic in 2005 and sprawls over 250 acres of wetland along the Mississippi Delta.
The players will be doing well to go around this facility and not find one of the 103 bunkers, with the many pot bunkers in play just screaming ‘one-shot penalty’. They are by no means the only concern for errant golf shots as, along with the majestic oak and cypress trees which line the course, many water hazards are in play.
Have a look at what TPC Louisiana has to offer below:
80 two-man teams will take to the fairways at TPC Louisiana and the new format at this year’s event has led to some interesting combinations.
As arguably the favourites for the title, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will prove difficult to overcome. The gold and silver medallists from Rio 2016 team up again, as they did at Hazeltine at last year’s Ryder Cup, and will aim to build on the platform of familiarity as they look to take the title in Avondale.
Here’s a reminder of Justin and Henrik’s 5 & 4 win over Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed:
The other marquee grouping comes in the form of world number three Jason Day and the man six places back in the OWGR, Rickie Fowler. Day is without a top 10 since August of last year but could easily catch fire here when paired alongside the better current form of Fowler.
In another interesting combination, American Brooks Koepka is paired with his brother Chase and has already quipped that they could kill each other on the second hole or have an awesome experience at the Zurich Classic. Brotherly love runs deep quite obviously.
With the Presidents Cup set to take place this year, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace can use their outing this week to fine-tune their partnership before proceedings get under way in late September.
The Japanese pair of Hideki Matsuyama and Hideto Tanihara will be worth keeping a close eye on. Both men have enjoyed strong performances in the 16/17 season and will likely be teamed up in the Presidents Cup themselves.
Who wins it?
With teams of two in play this week, it is likely to be doubly tricky to pick the victors come Sunday evening.
All those mentioned above have more than a puncher’s chance but, as far as the Tour organisers are concerned, golf will be the main long-term beneficiary.