AVONDALE, La. — Tony Finau is among the PGA Tour players ready to take unusual risks and big swings this week.
The tour returns to New Orleans with the two-man team format of the Zurich Classic taking place for the first time since 2019.
While the second and final rounds require players from each team to alternate shots, it’s a best-ball format in the first round Thursday and third round Saturday. It was then that spectators got to see some of the best players in the world trying to pull off all-or-nothing shots.
Finau is among the longest hitters on tour. Just like his teammate, Cameron Champ.
“There’s no reason for me to hold back on some holes where Cameron hit the middle of the fairway,” Finau said. “So I will definitely increase my ball speed on a few shots this week.”
Finau specifically mentioned the 403-yard 13th hole, which he called “a passable par 4”.
“I can see myself letting it rip,” he said.
While heavy hitter Bryson DeChambeau isn’t on the field, five players ranked in the top 10 in the world are. They include No. 5 Xander Schauffele and No. 10 Patrick Cantlay, who are on the same team.
They are friends who know each other’s game well.
“We play almost every week at least once and we thought it was a bit obvious,” said Schauffele, tied for third at the Masters. “We usually play each other from week to week, especially in our little nine-hole matches. So we know our games inside out. I think that will give us an advantage.
The par-72 TPC Louisiana course, designed by Pete Dye, is 7,425 yards long and is carved into a cypress swamp just southwest of New Orleans. It is an exotic-looking course with Spanish moss hanging from ancient cypress trees whose unusual root system, known as cypress knees, sometimes protrudes from the fairway a few yards from the base of the tree trunks. trees. There’s also a semi-famous large alligator – called Tripod because it’s missing a leg – that often makes appearances in the water lining the par-3 17th.
Tickets have been limited to 10,000 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the cancellation of the Zurich Classic in 2020. But the familiar garlic and buttery aroma of grilled oysters – one of the local dishes Finau’s favorites – is once again suspended in the air.
These sights and smells comfort Billy Horschel, the only player to win here in both a traditional solo format (2013) and the team format (2018) which was adopted in 2017.
Horschel, who teamed up with Scott Piercy three years ago, brought in Louisiana native and former LSU player Sam Burns as his teammate this time.
“Having a guy from Louisiana on my team can only increase my chances of winning hopefully a third time,” Horschel said. “It’s a very good putter. It leads him very far.
The defending champions are Texan Ryan Palmer, 44, and Spaniard Jon Rahm, 26, a seemingly odd couple from different continents and generations who won by three strokes in 2019.
Rahm arrives in Louisiana winless this season, but with a second-place finish — and a tie for fifth at the Masters — among eight top-10 finishes that earned him a world No. 3 ranking.
“One of the reasons the partnership has worked so well is that we’re playing a similar game,” Rahm said, noting that both players like to hit fades. “It’s a ball-striking golf course. … This should suit our forces very well.
Zurich also offers players the opportunity to strengthen their qualifications for the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, major international tournaments organized by teams every other year. The Ryder Cup, pitting an American team against a European team, is scheduled for the end of September.
“It’s definitely another week where we have the opportunity to shine in front of our captain (Ryder Cup) and the co-captains,” Finau said, referring to U.S. captain Steve Stricker and vice-captains Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Davis Love III. . “Who knows? You might be looking at a team that will represent the United States at the Ryder Cup later this fall.