The Zurich Classic of New Orleans offers a $7 million purse. Those populating this week’s 156-player field at TPC Louisiana had better be prepared to go low to have a shot at the $1.242 million first prize.
In the 10 years that the New Orleans stop has been played at TPC Louisiana, the winner has had to shoot 13-under or better. Designed by Pete Dye with assistance from former PGA champion Steve Elkington, the 7,425-yard layout has ranked among the 10 easiest on the PGA TOUR over 72 holes.
Justin Rose, who played his final 66 holes without a bogey last year, attempts to become the sixth back-to-back champion, a feat last accomplished by Carlos Franco in 1999 and 2000. Another past winner returning is Jason Bohn, making his second start after his recovery from a heart attack suffered at the Honda Classic. Bohn, who finished T69 at RBC Heritage, won the Zurich Classic in 2010.
This week’s event represents the last opportunity for contestants to secure a berth in THE PLAYERS Championship by moving into the top 10 on the FedExCup points list or into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. After the last putt drops in New Orleans, only the winner of next week’s Wells Fargo Championship can get a tee time at TPC Sawgrass if not already in.
Longtime CBS Sports golf analyst Gary McCord takes a look at this week’s event.
This is one of the more friendly Pete Dye courses. Your thoughts on TPC Louisiana?
I remember talking to Elk (Steve Elkington) a bunch about it. He wanted to open it up a little bit, not make the driving that precise. So there’s a lot of latitude with tee shots. It’s a typical Pete Dye second-shot golf course, but it doesn’t hit you upside the head. It’s not the visual horror story Pete Dye usually writes.
Justin Rose hasn’t won since this event last year. He has won one event each of the last six years. Surprised it has been a year since he won?
Yes, he works long and hard on his golf swing. It’s perfect. He’s increased his club head speed a bunch this year. The problem is with his flat stick. His stroke has always been a bit inconsistent. He’s shifted his attention to his putter. And if he can get hot with the putter, he’ll be there a lot in contention because he has no other flaws.
Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman are coming off a famous vacation with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in The Bahamas. Do you think they’ll be ready to play?
Can you imagine going from the fabulous Bakers Bay to New Orleans? They go from one party spot to a worse one. You have to love them. You have to love the whole insanity of it. They had a great time. I talked to Joe Skovron (Fowler’s caddie) and wondered if he was sorry he didn’t go. He said no way. When you scare caddies, you’re onto something. They should be loose. I’ll say that. I don’t think they’ll want any drinks with umbrellas in them. Can you imagine all the other players who want an invite to the Baker Bay brouhaha next year?
A situation that has been in the news lately… what do you make of some top players deciding to skip the Olympics?
Obviously, the question is, “Do you make that a personal choice or a choice representing your country?” It’s got guys thinking. “Does Rio bother me? Does the Zika virus play into it?” What is it? You can make up any reason you want, but these are professionals. They play on a weekly schedule. It’s not like Olympic athletes who only appear every four years. They have next week to look to; Olympic athletes only have four years later. If it was a team event, they might think differently. There are a lot of points to make because we haven’t had golf in the Olympics in 100 years. So we don’t know what to think.
Favorites and dark horses?
I like Rickie Fowler. He is double indemnity relaxed. I think he’ll play well. And Jason Day, of course, has got something to prove after a bad Saturday at Harbour Town. You know who looks good to me as a dark horse? Aaron Baddeley. He is a good dark horse. No sponsor, no logos on his hat or golf bag. But I like the way he’s been playing.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.