Allow me to introduce myself
We all love a little walk-up music. That's just one of the many unique pieces of the puzzle that makes up the Zurich Classic. The only official partner event on the PGA TOUR, 80 teams will be competing this week for $8.6 million dollars in purse money.
- Following two major events, only 16 of the top 50 in the OWGR have made their way down to the bayou.
- Those who are here will be competing for a first-place split of $2,485,400 million dollars ($1,242,700 each).
Pet Dye's TPC Louisiana has been the host course of the Zurich for some time. The event switched to a team event in 2017 with the inaugural winners being Jonas Blixt and Cam Smith! Yes, they rolled in New Orleans with a pre-tournament odds of +10000 (100-1).
- The average winner's pre-tourney odds over the last four editions are +1700 (17-1).
- Last year's winners, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay set the tournament scoring record at 29 under par.
- The average winning score of the four-day team event is 25 under par.
TPC Louisiana looks like a tough ticket on paper. One of the ten longest courses on the PGA TOUR, there are eight holes where water comes into play and 106 bunkers! Dye's design has four Par 4s over 470 yards and a brutal set of Par 3s averaging a combined 0.25 strokes over par. Sounds a bit conflicting when you consider Schauffele and Cantlay's record scoring. Fact is these guys will go deep on the better ball days.
There are two different formats in play for the four rounds.
- During rounds one and three, teams will compete in a Fourball or Better Ball of Partners format. Each player will compete by playing their own ball into the hole. The low score for that team on each hole will count.
- During rounds two and four, teams will compete in a Foursomes format. One player will pick the odd holes to tee off and the other will take the evens. Once the ball is in play on any hole, the two players will alternate turns until the ball is holed. That total will count as the team score.
The format is fixed, but the weather forecast is not. For the third week in a row, we will face rain. Temperatures are predicted to start on Thursday in the low 80's and sink to the high 60's by Sunday. The wind will blow from the southeast for rounds one, two, and three. It then shifts on Sunday to challenge the guys and will blow out of the north. The rain is coming in on Friday afternoon and will really settle in on Saturday. Over an inch is predicted for the 36-hour period. This area hasn't seen much precipitation in April, but the course sits below sea level.
I saw first-hand in Hilton Head how a course can change overnight. I won't put a lot of stock into the weather since this is literally a track meet. Teams will need double digits to safely navigate the cut line. Only the top 33 teams advance to the weekend. The largest field on tour is also the most demanding to compete for more than 36-holes. Player familiarity with the course and format is a huge factor.
Who knows if a format like this will survive all the schedule changes of 2024. I would say enjoy the change of pace and keep the card tight. This week can be much like New Orleans; a mixture of fun and the unknown...
Zurich Classic on TV:
The Zurich Classic starts in...
I'm going to keep the outright card tight in New Orleans for two reasons. First, we have a major championship for the LPGA. Second, after the top 5 teams on the odds board, we see a large drop off in total team strength. The last four winners of this team event had odds of +3300 (33-1) or less. The defending champions are +400 (4-1) and the favorites. Since we won't take Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay at that number, maybe we can learn a thing or two from their dominant 29 under par total last year.
- Xander and Patrick were 25 under in Fourball. Picking two guys who can make birdies on a Pete Dye course is important. I'm not too interested in team chemistry. I doubt Keith Mitchell and Sungjae Im are sipping bourbon together each night. They can both go low and that's what we need.
- I also believe teams should have similar styles. Opposites tend not to attract in team play. Putting a bomber together with a conservative shorter hitter doesn't makes sense. Cantlay and Schauffele work well together because they both have the same well-rounded skill set.
- Xander and Patrick both just finished in the Top 4 at Harbour Town, another Pete Dye design. Cantlay is a Dye killer. Pete's architecture fits a specific type of player. Our outrights will be those who can handle his outline.
- TPC Louisiana has 106 bunkers. Skill in the sand will count more than once this week.
- The average green size is 5,225 sq/ft. Medium sized for PGA TOUR standards, GIR success is my favorite strength to favor week after week. As a team you'll need 25+ birdies to compete. The more opportunities you can gain from hitting greens the better.
- Hitting those greens will come down to two skills. Approaches at TPC Louisiana come in over 200 yards and under 125. That split skill set favors a team that can do both. The perfect iron compliment would be a team who has two great wedge players and one with a strong long iron acumen.
- Always check par 4 scoring especially when we have two reachable 4s and four over 470 yards to contend with. It is such a varied skill set to be good at both.
- The rough is Bermudagrass at 2" and the greens over seeded with the common Poa Trivialis. We've seen these similar agronomy conditions for weeks. Recent form will weigh in here for the outright card.
Over a hundred bunkers, water on eight holes and they added 600 trees to the property since Hurricane Ida. Our outright teams are accurate, Pete specific, and playing very well. Let's take home another win this season with a team title.
Outright winners - Zurich Classic
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Fill 'er up!
After 51 years in Palm Springs, the LPGA's first major championship has moved from the Coachella Valley to The Woodlands, Texas. The Chevron Championship will be played at The Club at Carlton Woods on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. Even though each woman competing will be new to this course, I am not. The 2014 USGA Junior was played here. I was there with a student of mine and watched him lose to Will Zalatoris in the sweet sixteen. Zalatoris went on to win the national championship.
Having walked the course for five straight days watching elite players compete, I can convincingly say I know what it takes to contend on this Nicklaus course. Designed in 2001 by Jack, the course lacks a true signature. Much like many Jack designs, we have a bounty of bunkers and complicated putting surfaces. Throw in a scorecard over 6,800 yards and the players will wish they were back in Rancho Mirage, California jumping in Poppie's Pond!
- The course measures 6,824 yards and plays to a par 72.
- The average par 4 length is 405 yards!
- There's nine holes where water comes into play and 62 bunkers.
Length will be a discussion when we get to the outright predictions. Length doesn't always have to do with the golf course. The Club at Carlton Woods is a huge housing community. Since nothing is small in Texas, this property is immense. The distance players must travel from hole to hole adds up. I know all of these women are in great shape, but this week is an endurance test, and some players are better at handling it than others.
When I was here for the US Junior it was July and unbearable hot. The weather this week will be quite different.
- Temperatures are predicted to start in the low 80s for round one and drop to the low 70s over the weekend.
- Rain is expected on Thursday and Friday. Approximately 1" of rain is in the forecast with a 40% chance on Thursday and 70% chance on Friday.
- Again, this is a massive tree lined parkland golf course. Winds can swirl and thankfully the breeze will be around 10 mph all four rounds.
The winter and early spring have been on the cooler side in the Houston region. In the Superintendent's report, he commented several times about the lack of growth or return of the Bermudagrass. This leads us to believe the 2.25" of rough listed won't be as gnarly as it can be. This is the seventh event of the LPGA season. Only three of them have been full-field contests. Each of the top 20 Rolex World Rankings players are here, but some have barely played. One major championship contender has played only one event since last season!
We have a brand-new golf course, major pressure and all the bounty you can get from a Texas tournament. Chevron saved this event and plans to make the week special. I have no doubts. Which players will succeed? Keep reading to find out.
Chevron Championship on TV:
The Chevron starts in...
Jack Nicklaus' Signature Course at Carlton Woods is a well-rounded test. Where it lacks a bunker or two, you'll find water. The green complexes are complicated, and the LPGA can stretch this contest to whatever yardage they want. The world's best ball strikers are here to compete for $5.1 million dollars. Compete is the key word, and for many ladies it has been a sporadic Spring.
Several keys stand out in my mind about how to handle this golf course. I walked it for a week and watched competitors play both stroke and match play formats. It really didn't matter which style they played, they needed to do the following to win.
- The driver will to be a weapon for our winner. She'll need length and I'll favor that over accuracy. There are 28 fairway bunkers and water, but great drivers have enough control to avoid that kind of trouble. The rough has struggled to grow in Texas and therefore will allow those who just the miss the fairway the opportunity to score; the opposite to Palm Springs where driving accuracy was paramount. Three par 5s over 520 and nine par 4s over 390; bring the big stick.
- Jack loves his bunkers. There's a couple on this property that are bigger than a par 3. Don't let 62 total bunkers fool you, they feel like they are everywhere. Solid strikes from fairway bunkers and great greenside play will count.
- Fifty percent of approach shots will come in from over 150 yards. When you consider most of the greens are pushed up and surrounded by bunkers and swales, a great iron game is required. You cannot miss many greens here and contend. The average green is 6,800 sq/ft. That's large enough to land on and Jack really penalizes you if you miss.
- I'm not sure why, but Nicklaus loves to create really challenging putting surfaces. The greens at Carlton Woods are no exception. Those long approaches will roll into areas where two putting will be difficult. Combine that with major championship pressure, and I want players who have proven they can putt.
- Par 4 and par 5 scoring are very important. Any woman who can play these par 4s even or a couple under will win. Since this collection of 4s is so hard, our winner must take advantage of the par 5s. Sounds simple, but it's going to take some serious scoring skill from inside 100 yards to do it. Scrambling for pars on the 4s and making birdies on the 5s takes great wedge work, I want skillful short game scorers.
It sounds like you'll need every part of your game here to win. Yes, this is a major championship. Unlike the Chevron of year's past, this course can play much harder if they use the length. Power and grace are required to win alongside a deep self-belief. This course reminds me of recent majors played at Atlanta Athletic Club and Olympic. Big tough courses that cause the game's best to believe. I expect a great championship to kick off their major season and for these ladies to contend come Sunday on the back nine.
Outright winners - Chevron Championship
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