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The Tour goes marchin’ in: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

The PGA Tour marches into Dixieland this week for the 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.  The event history traces back to 1922 when it was first known as the Southern (Spring) Open and Gene Sarazen won with a score of 10-over par (but wasn’t played regularly on Tour until 1938).

The Zurich Classic is played on the challenging (mad-genius Pete Dye designed) TPC Louisiana course (built on swampland) with 71 sand bunkers and five water hazards sprawling the rolling hills, wetlands, and pestering cypress.

With some fairway bunkers nearly football-field size in length and several pot bunkers so deep you need a rope to climb out of them, TPC-Louisiana ranked 20th in difficulty on Tour in 2011.

And the “Triange of Doom” (a trio of lengthy consecutive par-4s on the front 9) is sure to give players nightmares (holes No. 4 and No. 6 are the first and third most difficult holes on the course).

“It wouldn’t be a golf course of mine if some players won’t scream and yell about it,” Dye said.  “But that’s the idea.  As an architect you want to get into a players head.”

Bubba Watson returns to defend his Zurich title in his first appearance since winning The Masters three weeks ago.

“[Zurich] was a big stepping stone for me,” Watson said of his win last year, where he was first in both Driving Distance and Greens-In-Regulation.

Watson defeated Webb Simpson with a birdie on the second playoff hole last year for his second win of 2011 (Simpson was in command coming down the stretch until calling a penalty on himself on the 15th green).

Four of the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up in “The Big Easy” including Watson (No. 4), No. 2 Luke Donald, No. 7 Steve Stricker, and No. 10 Justin Rose.

13 of the top 30 players in the FedExCup standings, 13 major champions, 12 past Nawlins’ champions, and 9 winners on Tour in 2012 will also be in the Bayou field this week.

Players to watch

Luke Donald (11/1)

Donald finished T-8 at Zurich last year, and he’s second on Tour in Strokes-Gained-Putting this year.  However it’s been hot or cold for Donald this season.

He won the Transitions Championship, and finished T-6 in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.  But he finished outside the top-30 in the other 4 events he’s played in.

Currently ranked 137th in Greens-In-Regulation, Donald will need to turn that around if he’s going to get a top-10 in New Orleans.  Don’t look for it to happen this week.

Bubba Watson (12/1)

Watson is the hottest thing on Tour and a win at Zurich would send his popularity not just through the roof but into outer-space.

Bubba is first in Driving Distance (313.1 yards) and second in GIR (73.61 percent) which sets up well on any course (let alone the long 7,341 yard TPC-Louisiana).

Critics point out Watson has never had to deal with the enormous media attention he’ll face as a major champion during the week of an event and that pressure might be too much.

But Watson flourished in what could arguably be the hottest pressure-cooker imaginable: a playoff victory in a major championship at The Masters.

There will be no wilt in Watson’s game.  I think Watson loves the spotlight, expect him to finish inside the top-10, and will be in contention again on Championship Sunday.

Keegan Bradley (18/1)

Bradley has played well all season with nine top-25 finishes, no missed cuts and a near victory in a playoff loss to Bill Haas at the Northern Trust Open earlier this season.

In his only appearance he last year (his rookie season) he finished T-26.  But he’s notched three top-10 finishes and is ranked first on Tour in All-Around Ranking this season.

Keegan should contend.

Justin Rose (20/1)

Along with his win at Cadillac Rose has two other top-5 finishes and five top-25 finishes.

He’s third in Scoring Average (69.31) and fifth in GIR (70.63%) and is having what could very well be a career year.

But historically Rose has struggled in New Orleans with two missed cuts and a T-43 in 2010.  Something about TPC-Louisiana is troublesome for  Rose and I expect him to struggle again this week.

Webb Simpson (20/1)

Simpson (World No. 14) has three top-10 finishes this season but hasn’t finished in the top-30 in his last three starts.

He suffered a heartbreaking loss here in 2011 when the wind moved his ball on the 15th green after he addressed it (which was a one-stroke penalty at the time).

Prior to last season Simpson struggled at TPC-Louisiana with a T-32 finish in 2009 and a missed cut in 2010 by 12 strokes.

Hoist the winner’s trophy

Graeme McDowell (28/1)

The 18th ranked player in the world finished inside the top-15 four times in six Tour events this season, with two top-10 finishes and one second place finish (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

He’s ranked second in Driving Accuracy on Tour (73.21 percent), 11th in Scoring Average (69.90) and 21st in GIR.

McDowell was frustrated with his overall performance (T-12 finish) at The Masters but a career-low 68 on Sunday makes me believe his attitude is in the right place and he’s going to put it all together for his first win this season.

Perfect Pairings

Camillo Villegas, Ryan Palmer, Fred Funk

Tim Petrovic, Cameron Tringale, Graham DeLaet

Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson

Ben Curtis, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell

Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley, K.J. Choi

Nick Watney, David Toms, Ernie Els

Michael Bradley, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman

D.A. Points, Charley Hoffman, Retief Goosen

John Daly, Jason Dufner, Scott Dunlap

Notes

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina knocked over 1,000 trees and left standing water on the course for weeks forcing the Zurich Classic to move to the English Turn Golf & Country Club (where it was held from 1989-2004) until it returned back to TPC-Louisiana in 2007.

Two-time major champion John Daly is in the field on invitation replacing Boo Weekley who withdrew for medical reasons (Daly has not had a full Tour card in six years).

Lee Trevino won here in 1974 without carding a single bogey (the last time a player on Tour has gone bogey-free in a 72-hole tournament).

The tournament record for lowest winning score is 262 established by Chip Beck in 1988.  And Kyle Reifers holds the 18-hole record for low score with his a 64 in 2007.

Television Coverage

Thursday and Friday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. EST

Saturday and Sunday: NBC 3-6 p.m. ET

Radio Coverage

Thursday through Sunday: SiriusXM Satellite Radio 12-6 p.m. EST

Odds

Odds provided by Las Vegas PGA Tour Golf Betting Odds.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

You can follow Pete on Twitter @TheGreekGrind

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

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Tuesday’s Photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

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Tiger Woods, who has won eight times at Torrey Pines, will make his first start in a full-field PGA Tour event since his spinal fusion surgery. The last we saw of Woods was in the 18-player Hero World Challenge where he finished T9, and showed that he could be healthy for 72 holes.

Jon Rahm, who’s now ranked No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, is the defending champion at the Farmers, and he also won last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He’s joined in the field by notables Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5), Justin Rose (No. 6), Rickie Fowler (No. 7), Jason Day (No. 14) and Phil Mickelson.

Enjoy our photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open below!

Tuesday’s Photos

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Monday’s Photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

Tiger Woods, who has won eight times at Torrey Pines, will make his first start in a full-field PGA Tour event since his spinal fusion surgery. The last we saw of Woods was in the 18-player Hero World Challenge where he finished T9, and showed that he could be healthy for 72 holes.

Jon Rahm, who’s now ranked No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, is the defending champion at the Farmers, and he also won last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He’s joined in the field by notables Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5), Justin Rose (No. 6), Rickie Fowler (No. 7), Jason Day (No. 14) and Phil Mickelson.

Enjoy our photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open below!

Monday’s Photos

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Tour News

Tour Rundown: Rahm gets win No. 2 and goes to world No. 2

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Week two of the 2018 calendar season added events on the PGA Champions and European tours. The PGA caravan left Hawaii for California and found its first playoff of 2018, just as the Champions Tour reached the islands. The Euros teed it up in Dubai, and the Web.Com Tour stayed in the Bahamas for a second week. With an Asian Tour event in Singapore, the globe’s eyes were once again on professional golf. Time for Tour Rundown at warp speed!

Rahm continues to build career with win at CareerBuilder Challenge

For all of the final round, it looked like Jon Rahm would pull away for a 4-stroke victory. His driving was impeccable and his irons were dialed in. His putting stroke looked sound, but some of the birdies simply did not nest. Throughout the four-hole playoff with Andrew Landry, it seemed as if Rahm was destined to lose. Somehow, he persevered and won.

Rahm’s patience pays off with second PGA Tour win 

How many edges of holes were singed with putts and chips by Jon Rahm down the stretch? At least four, not counting the playoff. Fortunately for the Basque, only Andrew Landry made enough of a move to track him down temporarily. Rahm played like the 3rd-ranked player should, and now he’s the world No. 2 player. Perhaps the fact that he couldn’t or didn’t separate himself from his pursuers, yet had enough weaponry to pull out a victory, mattered more than a runaway triumph. Yet golf is a funny game. The only fairway Rahm missed in extra time came on the 4th hole. Despite that errant tee ball and his misses on the first three playoff holes, Rahm was able to drain the only birdie of the playoff and walk away a champion.

See the clubs Jon Rahm used to win

Landry and others made the most of their opportunities

Andrew Landry showed more gumption than anyone anticipated. The 2016 first-round leader of the U.S. Open stayed around even longer this week. A 72nd-hole birdie brought him to 22-under par and a tie with Rahm. The Arkansas alumnus drove the ball straight and far on each of the playoff holes, and never once sniffed a bogey. His irons brought him within birdie range but, like Rahm, he could not find the proper combination of line and speed. In the end, Landry missed last and settled (if such a term might be used) for a runner-up finish.

Fleetwood greets 2018 with title defense at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Tommy Fleetwood looks for all the world to be a millenial hipster with his free-flowing hair and his strands of beard. In absolute contrast, he is equal parts passion and cold blood. When opportunity beckons, he doesn’t look away. Given the slightest opportunity to defend his 2017 Abu Dhabi title, Fleetwood assented and took charge.

How Fleetwood dispatched Fisher and the rest

Through 9 holes of Sunday’s final round, the tag for Tommy Fleetwood’s title defense percolated as He gave an admirable effort. Nine holes and six birdies later, that tag line had changed to How in the name of all that is known did he defend his title? And yet, there was Fleetwood with the fourth European Tour title of his career and third in the past dozen months. When Fleetwood needed a great drive, he got it. When he didn’t hit a great drive, he came through with a stellar approach. When his approach was off, he drained a long putt. And for good measure, he hit a wonderful pitch at the 18th, nestling the ball 5 feet for birdie, and made that. The end result was a 2-stroke margin of victory over the runner-up, Ross Fisher.

What is it about Ross Fisher?

Ross Fisher is eternally composed. Not like his countryman Colin Montgomerie (more on him later), who wore every disappointment like a Halloween mask. Yet, the two share a certain sad penchant for missing opportunities. Last October, Fisher wasn’t going to catch Tyrell Hatton in St. Andrews, but he was chasing immortality. He had a 25-foot putt for the first 59 at The Old Course…and missed. He had a 4-foot putt for the first 60 at the Old Course…and missed. He broke the course record with his 61, but, you know. Fisher has an 0-5 record in European Tour playoffs. On Sunday, he was victimized by Fleetwood’s marvelous back 9 of 30 strokes, but by his own inability to gather the fruits of opportunity. Case in point: Fisher made a long and testy putt for bogey on the par-5 10th, a hole that many birdied. Rather than use it as a springboard to return to his coach on the birdie train, he floundered with four pars and one bogey over his next five holes.

Kelly wins at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

Jerry Kelly earned the 2017 PGA Tour Champions rookie of the year award, on the strength of consistent play and his first two tour titles. On Day 3 of the 2018 season, he added to his victory total with a 1-stroke win over Colin Montgomerie. A 2-stroke swing on 18 decided the fate of both…here’s how!

How Kelly klaimed the championship

For fans of Hideki Matsuyama and his deceptive reaction to fantastic shots, Mr. Kelly is guilty of the same on well-struck putts. He drops his putter from one hand and slumps his shoulders after mid-range putts. All the while, the ball is tracking toward the hole, and usually drops. Kelly played a fine round on Saturday, with 5 birdies and 1 eagle. It might have been the sole bogey of the round, on No. 16, that ignited his hockey-bred fire. The miscue allowed Colin Montgomerie to take a 1-shot lead into the final 2 holes, but Kelly’s birdie on No. 18 brought him the title. How’s that?

How Monty lost his opportunity

We forget how difficult it is to hold a lead in any event, at any juncture. Colin Montgomerie never figured the recipe out in major championships on the regular tour, but he had it down, for the most part, in regular tour events. On the Champions Tour, he has been quite solid, winning six times as a senior in the U.S. and five times in Europe. In the third round at Hualalai, Monty’s most reliable club betrayed him at the least opportune time. A drive into a fairway bunker at the last hole left him 100 yards to the green. He flew the putting surface with his approach and played an indifferent flop shot to 7 feet for par and a playoff. His effort was off the mark and the title slipped from his grasp.

Sergio’s Singapore Open

Despite this unexpected result, Sergio Garcia opened the 2018 season with a victory in Singapore. We’ll run down what he did right.

Sergio and Singapore on a Sunday

The #SingOpen2018 and @TheSergioGarcia made a perfect match on an extended final day. Wet weather forced a last-day completion of Round 3, and most golfers played more than 20 holes on the final day. Garcia stormed from behind with 66-68 over those final 36 holes to wrest the lead from Danthai Boonma of Thailand. Nine birdies and 1 bogey over that stretch of two rounds finished the task for the Spaniard, who looks to defend his 2017 Masters title in the spring.

See the clubs Sergio used to win

The battle for second ended in a tie

With Garcia separating himself from the peloton, attention turned to Boonma and cast for the runner-up resolution. After three stellar rounds (70-68-65), Boonma stumbled in Round 4 with 73, finishing in a tie for 4th with countryman Jazz Janewattananond. Satoshi Kodaira of Japan and South Africa’s Shaun Norris each birdied the final hole to finish tied for second at 9-under, 5 blows behind the champion.

Hello, World for Sungjae Im at Web.Com Opener

Sungjae Im, all of 19 years of age and pegging it in his first Web.Com event ever, gave us a Hello-World moment with a closing 65 and a 4-shot win over Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. How did the young Korean pro flu powder his way to the top of the podium? We’re asking ourselves the same question

How Im became I’m The Champ

Im entered the final round of the Great Exuma Classic in a tie with Ortiz, but eyes were on proven winners like Rhein Gibson, Steve Marino and Erik Compton. Sungjae Im went out in Round 4 and played perfect golf. He had 4 birds on his outward half, then seized the trophy by both handles with 3 more chirps on holes 14 to 16. Simply put, there was nothing that Ortiz or any other entrant could do, beyond bow and salute the victor.

How Ortiz and the others took the shock

Carlos Ortiz did what he had to do during Tuesday’s final round. He played a solid round, minus-3 with 5 birds and 2 bogies. He stayed ahead of Gibson and all the others, but would have needed to turn his bogies into birdies to tie Im atop the board. Rhein Gibson began round four like a boss, with birdies on 5 of the first 6 holes. He reached 8-under and looked like the eventual winner. The engine sputtered, and it was 1-birdie-1-bogey-10-pars the rest of the way. Gibson would have needed 10-under on the day to tie for the trophy, but with a few more birdies along the way, would he have frightened Im? Who knows!

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