After a few weeks where golf courses like Redstone, Augusta National, and Harbour Town Golf Links tend to cut into the field of potential winners at their respective professional events, the PGA Tour returns to a venue this week that opens up the possibilities to a greater degree. And don’t take that as a slight on the TPC of Louisiana, the host of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. In fact, it is a compliment of sorts.
Unlike many TPC courses that simply demand a certain line of play anybody who has played the Pete Dye bayou creation will tell you that it does not favor a single type of player. How you choose the tackle the course is up to the player but the layout itself does not eliminate any of the 156 players in the field. Take a look at last year’s tournament for example. Jerry Kelly, the winner, has a style of play much different than runner-ups Charles Howell III and Rory Sabbatini. Talk about three players who tackle the game in a different ways!
Avoiding trouble on the 7341-yard TPC of Louisiana is paramount to success, there is just a smattering of water in play (most notably on the last hole) but the bunkers can be troublesome and being on the right area of the green is very important. Jerry Kelly made just four bogeys in his 2009 win; many were avoided by a hot putter – a value-priced offering from his sponsor Cleveland Golf.
Kelly is in good shape for his title defense. His final round of 67 at The Masters earned him a tie for 12th. In nine appearances at Louisiana’s only PGA Tour event he has made the cut seven times.
Adding strength to the field this week will be the presence of two players among the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking. Steve Stricker (3) and Ian Poulter (5) (update – Poulter withdrew on April 21st citing a knee injury) are set to add to their 2010 PGA Tour win totals.
As if Poulter did not add enough flare Spain’s Sergio Garcia, a 7-time PGA TOUR winner and ranked No. 19 in the World, will make his first appearance at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Maybe the amazing bounty of food and off-course activities that New Orleans is known for will be the tonic Sergio needs to find the right attitude to address his progressively lacking golf game.
And don’t kid yourself, the trip to New Orleans is not just chance for PGA Tour guys to relax off-course and mail it in between the ropes. Not only will there be $1.152 Million on the line for the winner, it is also a significant week in another way. This is the last week for players to gain entry to THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP by way of the FedEx Cup list. David Toms had a 5th place finish in his native Louisiana last year to punch his ticket to Ponte Vedra.
With so many possibilities it is tough to pin down a favorite for this week but don’t ignore Charles Howell III. Even though his slender figure would not indicate a love of all things New Orleans, it appears he is comfortable in the Crescent City. In 7 appearances he is yet to miss a cut and has four top tens, including T2 in his last two appearances. With a personal low score of 63 at TPC of Louisiana he is a constant threat.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)