Out of The Rough: The Zurich Classic (2023)
The PGA Tour takes a break from standard stroke play in favor of the unique duo format of the Zurich Classic.
The world’s best golfers will team up in groups of two to take to TPC Louisiana.
This is a polarizing event that is either loved by golf fans or hated. It seems that there is no in between.
Scoring is the most important thing to understand this week as every day calls for a different format.
The event begins on Thursday with the duos taking part in a best ball format. This means that each golfer will play their own ball throughout the entirety of the round, with the best score on each hole being recorded. Saturday is also best ball.
Friday and Sunday are played in a foursomes format. This means that players will rotate tee shots. One player will hit the tee shot on the odd-numbered holes as the other tees off on the even numbered holes.. Golfers then alternate shots from there.
Most of the scoring will be done through the best ball format as the likes of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay opened with a 59 a year ago. They would win the event at -29, with -25 coming from the two best ball rounds.
As for DFS scoring, only one golfer per team can be played, but the cumulative score of the duo will count towards scoring. For example, if you play Schauffele in one lineup, you too cannot play Cantlay. However, if you played Cantlay in a separate lineup, they would each record the same DFS score.
Easy enough to understand, right?
The field this week is rather top heavy with some marquee names joining forces to top the list of favorites.
Technically speaking, this is the largest field on the PGA schedule with 160 golfers taking to TPC Louisiana. Although 160 golfers will be competing, there will be 80 teams on the score cards.
Although deemed somewhat of a novelty event, it is still rather important. The winning duo will each receive $1.5 million, 400 FedEx Cup points and invites to the upcoming PGA Championship, Sentry Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship.
The event is positioned in such a way that it follows both The Masters and an elevated event in the RBC Heritage which creates a natural bye week for some of the Tour’s biggest names. Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Viktor Hovland will be a few of those not in attendance this week.
Despite some of the bigger names sitting idle this week, the field is still talented. Four of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) top-ten players will be attending.
The field is highlighted by the defending champions; Cantlay and Schauffele.
Other notable pairings worth mentioning this week include Max Homa & Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns & Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im & Keith Mitchell and Tom Kim & Si Woo Kim.
As previously mentioned, the field is top heavy however and there is a considerable gap after the top-five teams this week.
Ryan Palmer, Billy Horschel, Jonas Blixt, Nick Watney, and Scott Piercy - although not together - are former team winners of this event. It’s also worth noting that Palmer and Piercy will combine their course history and team up for the first time this week.
Brian Stuard, Jason Dufner, and Seung-Yul Noh are former champions of the Zurich Classic when the tournament was an individual stroke play event prior to 2017.
Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney as well as Kevin Tway and Kelly Kraft will be competing in their sixth consecutive Zurich together, playing every edition of this tournament as duos.
The cut line this week will fall at the top 33-teams plus ties.
TPC Louisiana plays as a par-72 at 7,400 yards and sits just 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans.
It too is a Pete Dye design which resides in Avondale, Louisiana. It was constructed on 250 acres of former wetlands and features 100 bunkers.
The course is littered with water hazards which are a prominent feature of TPC Louisiana. However, the course is still one of the most scorable tracks on the PGA Tour.
Such as the case with most Pete Dye designed courses, along with the familiarity of TPC courses, they play towards a tendency of positional angels off-the-tee with around-the-green emphases.
Bunkers, along with the water hazards, play as the main line of defense at TPC Louisiana. There too are random hazards such as trees in the center of the fairway.
Despite the lists of hazards and previously mentioned, there are plenty of scoring opportunities to be had.
Play off-the-tee will not be of the utmost importance this week as proven in year’s past. We’ve seen the success of both teams and individuals find success without being strong off the tee.
In all, TPC Louisiana is a glorified second-shot course which emphasizes on strong approach play to avoid the aforementioned greenside water hazards and bunkers.
The signature hole here at TPC Louisiana is the par-five 18th, where there’s water all the way down the right hand side.
As of the time of writing this, weather will seem to cooperate for at least Thursday. Highs are set for the low 80-degrees with winds of 15 miles-per-hour, they can cause some fits. From there, there is a decent chance of precipitation for both Friday and Saturday with chances of 50 and 60-percent respectively. Highs will remain in the low 80s for Friday before falling to the low 70’s come Saturday. Winds too will remain between 13-and-14 miles-per-hour across Friday and Saturday. The precipitation will reside come Sunday with highs set for the high 60’s. Winds will remain a factor however. The projected precipitation and the fact that the course sits below sea-level will cause the course to play wet and slow.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda)
Par-Five Average Scoring
Greens in Regulation Percentage
Strokes Gained: Total
The betting favorites by far this week are the defending champion duo of Patricky Cantlay and Xander Schauffele ($11,100.) The two won by two strokes a year ago over Sam Burns and Billy Horschel. To model this event, I simply ran individual scores and then combined the two per team to get my favorites. Additionally, I will be suggesting just one team per price range this week as well due to this unique format. Rightfully so, Cantlay and Schaufelle came out on top. Part of the success at an event like this goes beyond just two good golfers playing together. A lot of success has to do with chemistry and there obviously is that between these two friends. Schauffele is currently fourth on Tour in SG: APP, seventh in SG: TOT, ninth in par five average scoring, 15th in both birdie or better percentage and bogey avoidance, 19th in GIR%, 33rd in scrambling, 40th in SG: ATG, 42nd in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 53rd in sand saves percentage. Schauffele too is in some great form placing T5th at the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play, T10th at The Masters and fourth at the RBC Heritage across his last three events. Cantlay is currently tops on Tour in par five average scoring, second in birdie or better percentage, third in SG: TOT, fifth in GIR%, eighth in bogey avoidance, 27th in SG: APP, 34th in scrambling, 96th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 165th in sand saves percentage. Cantlay too is in some great form, fresh off a third place finish at the RBC Heritage. He also went T14th at The Masters, T9th at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, T19th at The Players, T4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and third at the Genesis Invitational.
I’m honestly surprised the duo of Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim ($9,700) are not in the top price range. Either way, I’ll take it. Besides the duo of Schauffele and Cantaly and then Max Homa and Collin Morikawa, the Kim duo are my third favorites per my model. Neither Si Woo Kim or Tom Kim played in this event a year ago but with the way both of their games line up, I think they’re in line for some success this week. Tom Kim may have missed the cut a week ago at the RBC Heritage but very quietly placed T16th in his debut at The Masters two weeks ago. He’s currently fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, sixth in scrambling, ninth in GIR%, 16th in SG: APP, 24th in SG: TOT, 37th in SG: ATG, 46th in par five average scoring, 48th in birdie or better percentage, 56th in sand saves percentage and 151st in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Si Woo Kim, like Tom Kim, missed the cut a week ago but placed T29th at The Masters the week prior. He is currently 25th in sand saves percentage, 29th in SG: TOT, 32nd in SG: APP, 37th in bogey avoidance, 55th in GIR%, 60th in both birdie or better percentage and scrambling, 88th in SG: ATG, 154th in par five average scoring and 175th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. If there is a downfall to this team it will be their poor putting. Neither of the two Kims are good with the flat stick. However, they’re both fantastic approach players and as this course favors the approach shot, the combination of the two can go a long way this week.
My selection in this price range is the duo of Joel Dahmen and Denny McCarthy ($8,900.) Both members of this duo played in this event a year ago, although not together. Dahmen teamed up with Stephan Jaeger as they made the cut. McCarthy played alongside Ben Kholes as the duo missed the cut. Now Dahmen and McCarthy are joining forces and they come into this year’s installment sixth in my model. McCarthy is an elite scrambler as he currently ranks seventh in all of the PGA Tour. He also ranks 17th in bogey avoidance, 40th in SG: TOT, 60th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 62nd in SG: ATG, 64th in birdie or better percentage, 79th in GIR%, 99th in SG: APP and 118th in par five average scoring. McCarthy too is in some good form as he’s fresh off a T25th finish at last week’s RBC Heritage. He also has placed T19th at the Valspar Championship and T13th at THE PLAYERS Championship dating back to the middle of March. Dahmen is currently 36th on Tour in sand saves percentage, 45th in GIR%, 56th in SG: APP, 59th in SG: ATG, 64th in bogey avoidance, 66th in birdie or better percentage, 74th in par five average scoring, 80th in scrambling, 81st in SG: TOT and 173rd SG: PUTT Bermuda. Dahmen missed the cut a week ago but prior to that made three consecutive cuts, This isn’t a sexy combination by any means but with the considerable drop-off from the top five-or-so duos, this duo models very well. The combination of McCarthy being an elite scrambler and above average on the greens as Dahmen is an approve average approach player could see them having success this week.
I’m very high on my team in this price range in Byeong Hun An and S.H. Kim ($7,100.) Hun An hasn’t been in action on the PGA Tour since the Valero Texas Open in early April. He placed T6th there. Including the T6th at the Valero Texas Open, Hun An had made eight consecutive cuts. He is also the best on Tour when it comes to SG: ATG. He’s also fifth in sand saves percentage, 35th in birdie or better percentage, 43rd in scrambling, 54th in SG: TOT, 92nd in average par five scoring, 95th in bogey avoidance, 99th in SG: APP, 130th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 178th in GIR%. Like Hun An, Kim has not been seen on the PGA Tour since the Valero Texas Open where he placed T15th. Kim too is elite when hitting from the sand, such as Hun An, as Kim ranks third on Tour. Kim is also 42nd in scrambling, 48th in SG: TOT, 69th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 74th in bogey avoidance, 81st in birdie or better percentage, 86th in SG: ATG, 154th in par five average scoring, 155th in SG: APP and 161st in GIR%. Kim being much better than Hun An in putting will go a long way this week. Both are great scrambling and around the green players. Their combination and price point will go a long way in lineup flexibility this week.
Time to dig deep and find the team in this final price range that is going to set our lineups above the rest. That duo just happens to be Harrison Endycott and Aaron Baddeley ($6,600.) Baddley is an elite around-the-green player who is a great scrambler and in return, avoids bogeys. He is currently ninth on Tour in SG: ATG, 13th in bogey avoidance, 21st in scrambling, 42nd in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 84th in SG: TOT, 95th in birdie or better percentage, 116th in GIR%, 126th in sand saves percentage, 132nd in SG: APP and 135th in par five average scoring. Baddley comes into this week’s event making three consecutive cuts, including events such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and THE PLAYERS Championship. Endycott is currently 70th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 101st in sand saves percentage, 113th in SG: ATG, 117th in scrambling, 122nd in both birdie or better percentage and GIR%, 142nd in bogey avoidance, 147th in SG: TOT and 154th in both SG: APP and par five average scoring. As both Baddley and Endycott are above average in SG: PUTT Bermuda and Baddley being elite around the green, I like what this duo brings to the table. They’re not going to win the event but in this price range we’re looking for them to make the cut and I believe they can do just that.
Si Woo Kim & Tom Kim (+1600) - 2u
Wyndham Clark & Beau Hossler (+2400) - 1u
Tom Hoge & Harris English (+3700) - 1u
Joel Dahmen & Denny McCarthy (+4600) - 1u