Zurich Classic of New Orleans Preview, Picks & Analysis
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer defend their team title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, one of the tournaments that fell victim to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. And the good news is that up to 10,000 spectators will in attendance every day.
The only team event on the PGA Tour has attracted some quality pairings, including Tyrrell Hatton and Danny Willett, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, Billy Horschel and Sam Burns and the big-hitting duo of Tony Finau and Cameron Champ.
Morikawa, who became only the second player to win a major and a WGC title before the age of 25, and Wolff will be difficult to beat. Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship in August. He then went on to win the WGC-Workday Championship in February, becoming only the second player to win both a major and a WGC title before turning 25. The other player to accomplish that feat was Tiger Woods.
He won his first PGA Tour title as a Special Temporary Member in just his eighth career start, which qualified him for the FedExCup Playoffs that year. Prior to that, he finished tied for second in his fourth PGA Tour start at the 3M Open, where he played with eventual champion Wolff in the final round.
His first victory of the 2020 season came at the Workday Charity Open in a playoff over Justin Thomas. He lost to Daniel Berger in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first event back from the suspension of the season.
Wolff won the 3M Open in only his fourth start on the PGA Tour, becoming a winner at 20 years, two months old. He went on to be named the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year on the Tour. The next season, he scored a solo second in the Rocket Mortgage Classic He later tied for fourth in the 2020 PGA Championship won by Morikawa. He was second at the U.S. Open in September, after holding a two-stroke lead going into the fourth round and the following week tied for second after a playoff in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. But he has struggled since the turn of the year.
Hatton and Willett should form a fascinating partnership. Both players have won only once on American soil, Willett winning The Masters in 2016 and Hatton the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year.
However, both have won six times on international tours, and both have made European Ryder Cup teams. Hatton was a member of Thomas Bjorn’s victorious side at Le Golf National in 2018, while Willett made the team two years earlier.
Hatton’s best finishes this season on the PGA Tour have been a tie for third in the CJ Cup and a tie for seventh at the Houston Open. Last season, in addition to his win at Bay Hill, he posted nine top-25 and six top-10 finishes in only 11 tournaments played in the U.S. He finished seventh in the season-ending Tour Championship to take seventh place overall in FedExCup standings.
He earned Special Temporary Membership in 2017 on the strength of three consecutive top-10 finishes in the early part of the season. Hatton has achieved 20 top-10 finishes in only 76 starts on the PGA Tour since 2013. He has tied for fifth and sixth in The Open Championship, tied for sixth in the U.S. Open and tied for tenth twice in the PGA Championship.
Willett won the Masters in 2016 after tying for third in two World Golf Championships events that season. His best finish this season was an eighth in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
In addition to winning the Masters in 2016, he also collected three top-10 finishes in only nine starts on the PGA Tour that season. That year he also made the European Ryder Cup team, won all three of his matches in the Eurasia Cup and competed for Great Britain in the Olympics.
Before turning pro, he won the English Amateur in 2007 and represented Great Britain and Ireland at the Walker Cup, which the American team won by only one point at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. That American team included Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson and Kyle Stanley.
There are several other fascinating partnerships, including Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Schauffele will be anxious to put his disappointing finish at The Masters behind him as soon as possible. He was breathing down Hideki Matsuyama’s neck until putting his ball in the water at the par-three 16th.
Keep an eye, too, an Aussies Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman, two men who are both in form. Smith really should be a regular winner as he appears to have every shot in the book, while Leishman has come emerged after an alarming slump.
Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Should be the perfect pair
Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman. In-form Aussies
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer. Defending champions
Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Two hugely underrated superstars
Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman. It’s all about the putting for these two
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer.
Tony Finau and Cameron Champ. Finau will take any win
Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler. Could bring the course to its knees
Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura. Another week, another good finish for Hovland
Martin Laird and Nick Taylor. Laird has rediscovered his best form
Wyndham Clark and Erik van Rooyen. Definitely dark horses to watch
Troy Merritt and Robert Streb. Two men looking for a big week
Tom Hoge and Beau Hossler. Hossler is an under-achiever but boy can he swing a golf club
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