Zurich Classic Betting Tips: 4 selections including a 150/1 chance
Golf is just a better and more entertaining place when Jordan Spieth is contending. After a final round more reminiscent of a DP World Tour Sunday, as no players seemed able to grab the event by the horns and take control, it gave Spieth the perfect opportunity to sneak up on the inside and pick up a 10th PGA Tour title and kickstart his year.
This week we head to TPC Louisiana for the PGA Tour’s most unique event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Originally a regular stroke-play event, it has been played in its current format, as a team event since 2017 (excluding 2020 because of the pandemic). Where teams of two play two rounds of best-ball, in rounds 1 and 3, and two round of alternate-shot, in rounds 2 and 4.
Zurich Classic Tips
- Max Homa & Talor Gooch 25/1 – 1/5 7 places (William Hill) – 2 points EW
- Seamus Power & Graeme McDowell 45/1 – 1/5 7 places (William Hill) – 1 point EW
- Adam Hadwin & Adam Svensson 50/1 – 1/5 7 places (William Hill) – 1 point EW
- Tyler Duncan & Adam Schenk 150/1 – 1/5 7 places (William Hill) – 1 point EW
Another week and another design from the iconic Pete Dye. TPC Louisiana is a par 72 measuring 7425 yards and sets up perfectly for this format, with birdies the order of the day but danger in abundance around the course.
Fairways are generous but protected by lots of water throughout, as well as a huge amount of sand. As you’d expect with a Dye design, the bermuda greens are small and undulating, with more of that water and penal pot bunkers, another signature of Dye’s, waiting to penalise errant approach shots.
All par 5s are reachable for most and present the best birdie opportunities. Whilst there’s a good variety of par 4s, longer, more challenging holes and short, more likely birdie opportunities. The par 3s tricky, with all measuring over 200-yards.
The finish to the course is set up for drama, with the drivable par 4 16th, tough par 3 17th and another birdie chance on the par 5 18th. All with the danger of the water lingering from start to finish.
Due to the nature of this event, we have no tournament statistics to go off in the last five years since they made the decision to switch to this format. Though in looking at the skillset of the type of teams that have tasted success here, as well as looking at those winners from pre-2017 when it was just a regular strokeplay event, we’re able to gain an idea of how this course plays and what we need from a team this week to contend.
With this, it comes as no surprise on a Pete Dye design that this course is very much about just getting your ball in-play off-the-tee, with what you do afterwards of more importance.
Of the four teams to win here since 2017, only one player amongst them has ranked outside the top 100 in approach that season at the time of winning, Jonas Blixt in 2017. The team of Smith/Leishman in 2021 were 73rd/64th respectively when winning, the team of Palmer/Rahm in 2020 were 35th/64th, Horschel/Piercy were 85th/2nd in 2018 and with Blixt in 2017 was Cameron Smith again, who ranked 83rd in approach at the time of winning this event. Every winning team possessing at least one player who was producing at worst, solid approach play for the year.
This is something even more evident when looking at the putting stats. Even though two players ranked outside the top 100 in putting at the time of winning, Marc Leishman last year and Scott Piercy in 2018, the rest didn’t just rank inside the top 100 but amongst them there was nobody who ranked worse than 57th. It seems obvious but at least confirmed here is the fact that to win around here, at least one member of the team has to be in good nick on the greens.
This is very much something which also stood out amongst the most recent solo winners of this event from 2013-2016. All ranked inside the top 12 in putting for the week, with Brian Stuard the best putter in the field when winning in 2016 and Billy Horschel 3rd in 2013.
These events too show the suspected importance of approach play, with two of them in the top 10 in approach when winning, Seungyul Noh led the field in approach in 2014 and Billy Horschel ranked 9th in 2013.
Small greens and windy conditions mean we’re going to need players who can get up and down. Scrambling was huge from 2014-2016, with each of those winners ranking no worse than 4th in scrambling for the week, Stuard 1st in 2016, Justin Rose 4th in 2015 and Noh 3rd in 2014.
It’s fair to assume the best ranked teams will have the best chance but I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as that, particularly if they have the same weaknesses. I wouldn’t like to be on two flushers who can’t putt, or two putters struggling with their irons. Teams that have that balanced mix of the qualities required making the most appeal.
We could have a tricky week in store, with a strong breeze predicted throughout the four days of the event. Conditions will also be dry and warm for the first three rounds, though there is the potential for some stormy weather on the Sunday.
There are a number of interesting partnerships teeing it up this week. The man of the moment, Scottie Scheffler, returns to action here, fresh off the back of a week off following his Masters success, teaming up with Ryan Palmer, who is a past winner of the event in this guise.
Undoubtedly the most exciting and highly ranked team is the duo of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, who rank as the 2nd and 5th best players in the world respectively. Strict competitors from their amateur days and carrying that over into the pro ranks, it will be fascinating to see them paired together.
Other notable teams include last year’s winners, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman. The elite Californian duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. Whilst childhood friends and roommates, Will Zalatoris and Davis Riley have both gone close this year on the PGA Tour and could thrive playing together in this format.
The best ranked duo of Morikawa & Hovland head the market at 7/1, followed by Cantlay & Schauffele at 8/1 and Smith & Leishman at 9/1. I have little interest in getting involved at such low prices in a quirky event, for all they rate as the clear best teams.
Of those at the very front of the market, I like Sam Burns & Billy Horschel the most at around 14/1. Both good all-rounders and excellent putters, they finished 4th here last year and look sure to go close again. Though I start with a team not too far away from them statistically and who I believe possess that nice balance of skills that should see them go well this week, the pairing of Max Homa & Talor Gooch.
Both players have had really solid years so far. Homa has missed just one cut all year, back at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and put up four top 20s in his eight starts this year. Whilst Gooch has made a couple more starts and missed a couple more cuts but has five top 20s, as well as the best finish of either this year, a 7th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and we last saw him putting up an excellent 14th place finish at The Masters.
The games of the two players compliment each other nicely. Both are producing some quality approach play this year, with Gooch ranking 16th and Homa 34th on tour this season. Whilst both are also plenty strong enough with the putter, Homa ranking 52nd on tour, complimented by Gooch’s 85th.
The real positive comes as each of their weaknesses, is the other guy’s strength. Homa struggles around-the-greens, whilst Gooch excels, currently ranked 6th on tour this season. Whereas Gooch’s undoubted weakest club in the bag is the driver, it’s arguably Homa’s biggest weapon and he ranks 31st on tour this season off-the-tee. Also both ranking amongst the highest birdie makers on tour, with Gooch ranked 22nd in birdie average and Homa 30th.
Homa had a few appearances here in the regular strokeplay years, finishing 48th in 2014 and 65th in 2015. They have both played here twice in this format, missing the cut on their first try with different teammates, though finished 17th last year when teaming up for the first time.
Gooch and Homa count each other amongst their best friends and clearly feel comfortable teeing it up with each other. Homa’s been a little off with the putter of late but if he can find something here, they can improve on that 17th place finish last year.
Seamus Power and Graeme McDowell both have solid records at this venue in this format and can take advantage of some good recent form to make the most of their debut teaming together in the event.
Power has been one of the real success stories of the PGA Tour the last 12 months, taking his game to previously unseen levels. He picked up his first title at the Barbasol Championship last year and has continued to perform excellently.
He started the year in excellent fashion, finishing no worse than 15th in his first four events of the year. A surprising three missed cuts on the spin followed but he’s arrested that slide in recent starts, finishing 33rd at THE PLAYERS Championship, an excellent effort getting to the quarter-finals of the Matchplay and put up a strong 27th place finish at Augusta on his latest start.
After a slow start to the year, McDowell has found some form in recent weeks and it’s the return of his typically excellent putting that has contributed most to these results. He’s hit the top 25 twice in his last five starts, with a 13th place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational his best effort.
Their games should work nicely together here. Power is a pretty strong all-rounder, but it’s been noticeable how much he’s improved off-the-tee this season, the weakest area of his game last year. Current rankings of 4th in GIR, 26th in scrambling and 37th in putting the particular standouts in relation to his potential to perform this week. Combine this with McDowell’s recent return to his usual putting standards and the fact he’s producing some quality approach play this year, they both have many of the qualities I’m looking for this week.
McDowell had a pretty average record here pre-2017 but has gone well in this event in every appearance since the switch to this format, finishing 22nd, 18th and 23rd in three visits. Power’s form is even more impressive in this format, with finishes of 10th and 5th in three visits. Though all with different partners, they can both transfer that form to this partnership this week.
There’s an added bonus with these two of strong books of form at other Pete Dye designs. McDowell is a past winner of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town and Power has also gone well there, finish 6th in 2019. Though in terms of recent form, that excellent quarter-final appearance at the Matchplay takes place at the Dye designed Austin Country Club.
There’s little not to like about this duo. Good records in this format, good recent form and possessing the right set of attributes that should work well together. I expect they’ll continue their strong record in this event, on their first try at the event as a duo.
It wouldn’t be a recent PGA Tour preview for me without seeing Canadian Adam Hadwin. There was enough in his performance last week, and that of compatriot and fellow Adam, Adam Svensson for me to go back in on him for the fourth event on the spin.
They both finished tied for 26th last week at Harbour Town. In that performance they continued to produce real quality in approach, the standout area in each of their games, with Hadwin Ranking 15th and Svensson 9th on the week. This backing up Hadwin’s ranking of 13th and Svensson’s of 46th for the season, where they’re both producing continually excellent iron play.
Hadwin’s form this season is well documented and he is playing genuinely top level golf. Further to his approach stats he ranks 10th in GIR, 20th around-the-greens, 34th in scrambling and 51st in putting, meaning he’d be of real interest this week if it was just a regular strokeplay event.
Svensson’s season has been less consistent, but he has shown plenty of quality himself, with two top 10 finishes coming courtesy of a 7th place finish in the Sony Open and 9th in the Honda Classic. It’s also been encouraging to see a good upturn in his putting in recent weeks, where he’s gained strokes on the greens on his latest three starts.
Hadwin played twice here pre-2017, missing the cut on debut and then finishing 36th on his next visit. Though did improve on that when 13th here in 2019 when teaming with Jim Knous. The same year Adam Svensson made his first and only appearance at the event, when missing the cut, teamed with Ollie Schniederjans.
Adam Hadwin is playing well enough that he’d be an excellent partner for anyone this week but combined with Adam Svensson we have a team of excellent iron players. If Svensson can keep up the recent upturn in his putting, maybe he can help Adam Hadwin get over the line and pick up the win his recent play has deserved, though obviously not in the way he’d necessarily have wanted.
Finally I’m going to take a punt on one of the outsiders of the field, in the team of Tyler Duncan and Adam Schenk. They appealed off the back of a strong record in this event when teaming up, with finishes of 7th and 11th either side of a missed cut.
There is a reason they come here at this price considering that really positive record of results they have in the event and that’s the current form of Adam Schenk. Duncan has found some good form of late, with a run of form figures that reads 35-25-28-MC-12, that 12th place finish coming last week in the RBC Heritage and barring a poor performance in Texas, every part of his game has been firing.
In contrast, Schenk has made just three cuts in eleven starts this year, with that usually solid ball-striking and quality putting largely deserting him. Having said that, he did finish 7th just three starts ago at the Corales Puntacana, which tells me of a player who can’t be all that far away, for all his stats may say otherwise.
I do think this is the ideal event for someone like Schenk to find something though. Indeed in the 7th placed finish in 2018 and 11th place finish for the pairing last year, it was Duncan who arrived at both of those events in worse form.
I imagine there’s something less pressured about this event, as opposed to a regular tour event, with many players playing with close friends. This is very much the case with this pairing as Duncan was actually best-man at Schenk’s wedding. At this price I’m more than happy to see if this format can bring something out in Schenk, much like it has done in Duncan in previous years.