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Zurich Classic of New Orleans 2024 Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 22 Apr 2024

It comes as something of a surprise to see Rory McIlroy in the field for this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. This is a team event and is one of the season’s 'fun' tournaments and McIlroy has opted to partner former Open champion Shane Lowry as he begins his preparations for the US PGA Championship.

McIlroy is having a pretty poor season by his own standards. This may seem like a pretty strange thing to say about a man who won the Dubai Desert Classic and contended at the Texas Open and Dubai Invitational but he failed to contend at The Masters, The Players Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational - and is a country mile behind Scottie Scheffler in the world rankings. It is certainly not what he was looking for when the year began and he continues his quest to end his 10-year major drought.

So he will hope that having a bit of fun with Lowry just might help him to turn the corner. But if he thought that they might be in for an easy ride then he is in for a shock.

Rory McIlroy

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, who won in 2022, are back. Schauffele is enjoying a fine year while Cantlay is not far from his best. The pair also finished fourth 12 months ago.

Perhaps the most exciting pairing is that of Will Zalatoris and Sahith Theegala. The ball-striking maestro Zalatoris will pair with short-game artist Theegala, in what could be a complementary match made in golf heaven. Zalatoris finished fourth in 2022 alongside Davis Riley, while Theegala played with Beau Hossler and Justin Suh in the last two years respectively.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who showed glimpses of his very best form at The Masters, will team with Kurt Kitayama, who earned his first PGA Tour title at last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. The two are close friends and often play 'Call of Duty' together as well.

There are also going to be two pairs of identical twins in the field - Pierceson and Parker Coody and Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard..

The Coody twins, both 2022 University of Texas graduates, earned their PGA Tour cards together via the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour. They were paired together for the first time on Tour at the Houston Open. Becoming the first twin professionals to be grouped together on the PGA Tour.

Rasmus Hojgaard and Nicolai Hojgaard will pair together for the first time at the Zurich; Nicolai competed in 2023 alongside Thorbjorn Olesen. He enjoyed a great 2023, winning the DP World Tour Championship and making his Ryder Cup debut as Europe thrashed the USA at Marco Simone. And he has quickly made his mark in the USA, producing a series of fine finishes that culminated in him contending at The Masters. Rasmus is also a proven winner on the DP World Tour and will be looking to join Nicolai on the PGA Tour in 2025.

Also keeping it in the family are brothers Matthew and Alex Fitzpatrick. Matthew is a former US Open and RBC Heritage champion, multiple winner on the DP World Tour and a three-time Ryder Cup player. His brother Alex is four years his junior and is making his way on the DP World Tour after a successful 2023 on the Challenge Tour. The brothers finished in a tie for 19th here last year but Alex is a much improved golfer since then.

The tournament was won 12 months ago by life-long friends Davis Riley and Nick Hardy, who are back to defend their title. The pair birdied four of their final six holes on the way to a 65.

Hardy and Riley had started the day three shots off the pace but their blemish-free final round saw them finish with a tournament record score of 30-under-par.

The pair's nearest challengers were Canadians Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor, who finished two shots off the pace despite a superb nine-under final round of 63. At one stage, they rattled off seven-straight birdies between the seventh and 13th holes to briefly give themselves a one-shot advantage.

The only team-based tournament on the PGA Tour schedule, the Zurich Classic uses a four-ball (best-ball) format in the first and third rounds and foursomes (alternate shot) in the second and final rounds. Foursomes is considered the more difficult format of the two, but that didn't stop Riley and Hardy from catching fire on the back nine.

They reached 29 under with Riley's six-foot birdie putt at the par-four 16th hole. Then, on the par-three 17th, after Hardy's wayward tee shot, Riley holed an incredible 33-footer from the fringe of the green for their final birdie of the day.

Tournament Winners:

The tournament first became a team event in 2017, when it was won by Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt, it was won in 2018 by Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy, in 2019 by Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer, in 2021 by Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman, in 2022 by Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele and last year by Davis Riley and Nick Hardy. It wasn’t played in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The Course:

TPC Louisiana is located 15 minutes from New Orleans. It is a par 72 that measures 7,425 yards. The course record of 62 was set by Ben Martin in 2014. It was designed by Pete Dye, Steve Elkington and Kelly Gibson. It stretches over 250 acres of wetlands along the Mississippi River Delta and features plenty of water hazards, more than 100 bunkers, and plenty of cypress and oak trees.

Form Guide:

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are former winners and also went close 12 months ago. They are the class act in the field this week, with Schauffele enjoying a consistent season and Cantlay showing signs of his very best form at Augusta. They will take some beating.

To Win: 

Patrick Cantlay & Xander Schauffele. Have a great record here

Each Way: 

Rory McIlroy & Shane Lowry. Could end up making birdies for fun

Each Way:

Will Zalatoris & Sahith Theegala. They could run away with this

Five Pairs to Follow:

Patrick Cantlay & Xander Schauffele. Two incredibly gifted golfers

Rory McIlroy & Shane Lowry. Will enjoy each other’s company

Will Zalatoris & Sahith Theegala. Will entertain the crowds

Rasmus & Nicolai Hojgaard. Know each other’s games inside out

Matthew & Alex Fitzpatrick. Don’t rule them out - Alex is a gifted golfer

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Tags: PGA Tour Golf Previews FedEx Cup

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