TPC Louisiana and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans has always been a little lost wedged between Augusta/Harbour Town and Quail Hollow/TPC Sawgrass in the PGA Tour schedule. However the Pete Dye design is a beauty which favours no particular type of player and the $1.152m purse put up by the title sponsor is a bigger prize fund than the recent tournaments at Copperhead, TPC San Antonio, Redstone, Harbour Town and Bay Hill. So the number of top players like Rose, Dufner (defending), Watson, Bradley, Fowler, Watney, Olesen (granted special PGA Tour membership for the rest of 2013), Howell III, Els and Choi makes for an interesting puzzle to decipher for us golf punters.
Before I move on I'll quickly highlight a couple of decent 'value add' options for us this week - both Bet Victor and Stan James are offering 6 places EW at TPC Louisiana this week. Current Odds: Bet Victor| Stan James
The course itself is a longish Par 72 resort course that has teeth and which certainly has Florida style overtures. As you'd expect with a Dye design, this is no typical resort course but low scoring is possible. The main defence of this 7,425+ yard course, which was extended for 2012, is the nature of the Mini Verde Bermuda greens. Greens average 5,700 square feet, which is relatively standard, but they are undulating, which is why precision is premium on approaches. Proximity to hole with iron in hand is imperative to make birdies. Friday and Saturday will be blustery but this won't be like Harbour Town by any stretch.
The last 4 winners of the Zurich Classic have been priced at 28/1 (Dufner), 28/1 (Watson), 80/1 (Bohn) and 150/1 (Romero). That in itself highlights the challenge we face this week - although I must point out I snared Dufner 12 months ago in this column. Adding Watney and Petrovic to the champions list makes the water even murkier. We have short and long hitters, strong putters and Greens In Regulation grinders. So, in essence, the course plays into the hands of any game style. It's apparent that all were experienced professionals (Watney was in his 3rd season when he won his 1st PGA Tour title here in 2007) and, taking that a step further, 65% of the Top 3 finishers since 2005 (excluding English Turn in 2006) had never won on the PGA Tour or had achieved only singleton victories. That's an incredibly strong statistic although the weak nature of previous fields does need to be considered. Since Romero in 2008, Kelly, Bohn and Watson were all PGA Tour winners, but then Jason Dufner broke his maiden here at the last renewal...
So I'm going to keep things tight and simple this week. A mix of experienced PGA Tour professionals all of whom have a history of shooting low scores on resort-style Par 72s with Bermuda greens. All of them can play mild wind conditions adequately, indeed most can grind, be patient and avoid Bogeys when necessary, plus all have been trending well in 2013 without delivering a win.
I watched coverage of The Masters a few weeks ago and took on board the body language of Nick Watney around Amen Corner. He'd already shot a 78 on Thursday to take himself out of contention, but instead of packing his kit (mentally) and heading back to Las Vegas, he shot 7 straight pars on Friday and had just gone birdie-birdie-par-birdie across holes 7 to 10 when he entered camera view coming down the hill at 11. Sure enough I noticed the Watney swagger as he walked towards the green and proceeded to make outrageous par saves on both 11 and 12 with great putts from 15+ feet . Hold on a minute, Nick has found the putter at last was my instant thought! Sure enough Nick went on to fire 69/68 in tough conditions across Friday/Saturday to eventually finish 13th, his 4th top 20 finish at Augusta in 6 appearances. Now we all know that Watney is a far better player of Bermuda greens than Bent (although he's won on both) and for me a surge in his putting, married to his tee to green game which has been excellent across the whole of this season, makes him a must-back this week at TPC Louisiana. He won here back in 2007 with a -15/273 total which I think will be just about the target required this week and there's no doubt that Watney has the ability to go "resort" low on Bermuda carpet as -18/270 and -16/272 totals at Doral plus - 22/262 at The Mines in Malaysia back in October highlight. His putting has in fact been positive in terms of Strokes Gained across Copperhead, Bay Hill and Redstone and I'm confident the World Number 23 will go well at a track he favours this week. Nick is available at a best in market 28/1 - 5 Places EW with BetFred and 25/1 - 6 Places EW with BetVictor. RESULT: T15
I'm always a lover of Robert Garrigus on open Bermuda greened Par 72 formats and 3 career MCs (2008-10) at TPC Louisiana isn't going to put me off the Scottsdale man this week either. There's no doubt in my mind that we are dealing with a completely different player these days and it's interesting that Garrigus had added a trip to New Orleans to his 2013 schedule meaning that he will play Augusta, Harbour Town, TPC Louisiana, Quail Hollow and TPC Sawgrass across 5 consecutive weeks. He wouldn't be here if he thought he couldn't be competitive. A steady 2013 has yielded 16th at PGA West, a career best 6th at Torrey Pines, his first Quarter Final appearance in the World Match Play and his first weekend appearance at Augusta (38th) leading to a positive Top 35 OWGR spot right now. The next target quite simply has to be grabbing that 2nd "W" his upsurge deserves and we all know how Garrigus thrives on Bermuda greens and at resort style courses. Kapalua: -24 (2nd 2011); PGA West: -22 (2nd 2012); The Mines: -21 (2nd 2012); Hamilton: -16 (2nd 2012); Crooked Stick: -17 (4th 2012); TPC Summerlin -16 (3rd 2007); Disney: -21 (1st 2010). His irons are dialled in right now (he sits 4th in Fairway Proximity) and his putting has been positive at Harbour Town and Bay Hill in his last 2 non major outings. Bobby is available at a best in market 60/1 - 5 Places EW with bet365 and 50/1 - 6 Places EW with BetVictor. Robert Garrigus withdrew before the event started. With Garrigus' withdrawal I've added Rory Sabbatini as an extra selection:
Rory Sabbatini has always been "stealth bomber" like and I think he's due a win in 2013. The reason? Well his last PGA Tour victory was at PGA National (Bermuda greens) in March 2011, so his 2 year exemption comes to a close this season. Hardly amazing then that his previous wins were in 2007 and 2009 - seeing any form of pattern here? However I'm not backing Sabba just on the basis of a winning pattern. Fact is, the Texas-based South African, who has won 6 times in the US, has always been a momentum player who generally wins off the back of a Top 10 result. A quality wind player, recent form of 9(Harbour Town)-27(Copperhead)-30(Puerto Rico) is interesting as is the fact that Rory is upwardly trending across both GIR% (4th at Harbour Town), Putting Average (15th at Copperhead) and Fairway Proximity to Hole (11th) categories of late. Wins at TPC Scottsdale, Riviera, Colonial, TPC Four Seasons and PGA National all fit well as do strong T5 performances at Kapalua, Waialae, Torrey Pines, Augusta, Quail Hollow, TPC Summerlin and here on course debut in 2009 when he finished 2nd by shooting -13/275. Rory is available at a best in market 70/1 - 5 Places EW with 888Sport and 66/1 - 6 Places EW with Bet Victor. RESULT: MC
I'm going to keep plugging away with 3rd season PGA Tour pro Chris Kirk who for me has the kind of game that can thrive at TPC Louisiana. Let's start with immediate recent form which reads 30(Harbour Town)-22(TPC San Antonio)-16(Bay Hill). Consistent and all played in unrelenting windy conditions that Kirk struggles in. With easier conditions forecast I'm thinking those recent mature performances could well bear fruit this week on a track that's sure to suit. But Kirk missed the cut here on debut last year Steve? That he did, but in my mind a 36 hole performance that included 71% Driving Accuracy and 78% Greens in Regulation highlights that Kirk has the perfect tee to green game for TPC Louisiana and 52 weeks down the line his putting performances are far stronger. Indeed consecutive Strokes Gained Putting performances number 4 right now running up to PGA National. Kirk's single PGA Tour victory was at the Bermuda greened Par 72 at Annandale back in 2011 where he shot -22/266 to win and further Top 10 performances at PGA West (-23/337), Kapalua, (-14/278), Hamilton (-14/266), The Mines (-19/265) show he can go low. 2nd at a tranquil Pebble Beach Pro-Am (-17/269) in February also highlights that the Georgia 26 year-old has great course management which is paramount for this Dye design which does have teeth. Kirk is talented and upwardly mobile in the OWGR at 78. The next step is regular Majors and he needs to grab a Top 60 spot by the close of May to qualify for the US Open at Merion. RESULT: T21
You're always onto a hiding to nothing backing John Rollins. The term inconsistent was invented for the Colleyville Texas resident. I've said it before and I'll say it again, a win with John Rollins would be Nirvana! But when you look at Rollins recent New Orleans performances: 13th (09), 21st (10), 26th (11) and 7th (12) I can't help but think that Rollins will has a shot at contending this week. His CV also contains masses of linkable course form like PGA West 2nd (07); Torrey Pines: 4th (06), 2nd (09), 3rd (12); TPC Scottsdale: 2nd (07), 8th (12); Bay Hill: 5th (07); TPC Four Seasons: 6th (11); TPC River Highlands: (2nd (11), 4th (12); Sedgefield: 3rd (10) and TPC Boston 4th (04). I've actually been amazed by John's consistency so far in 2013 which has seen Top 25 finishes at Waialae, PGA West, TPC Scottsdale, Riviera, Bay Hill and Redstone, backed by fantastic Greens in Regulation, Birdie Average, All-Around and Fairway Proximity numbers. Rollins has always been the streakiest of putters and if the flat stick warms this week on greens he's comfortable on I like the look of over 16/1 for a Top 6 finish. John is available at a best in market 70/1 - 5 Places EW with bet365 and 66/1 - 6 Places EW with Stan James. RESULT: MC
So we are looking for a resort positive player with experience who prefers Bermuda grass greens over Bent greens. Well that to me screams Ryan Palmer who is a great addition at a juicy 70/1. We all know that the Texan, who is a 3 time PGA Tour winner (all on Bermuda), is one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, so 2013 putting average numbers like 1.650 (PGA West), 1.566 (TPC Scottsdale) and 1.600 last week at Harbour Town should not really be a shock. However it's Ryan's tee to green game this season that might be more of a shock to readers as he ranked 5th for GIR% at PGA West and 3 weeks back ranked 3rd for GIR% at TPC San Antonio. So I get the feeling that he's going to marry GIR% and a strong putting week together very soon and TPC Louisiana should be the perfect course. Indeed he ranked 6th for greens hit and 8th for putting average at this Dye design 12 months ago when he finished 4th at -16/272. Top 10s at PGA West (6th) and TPC Scottsdale (5th) allied to seasonal stats like 26th in Greens in Regulation, 19th in Birdie Average, 14th in Ball Striking and 29th in Fairway Proximity shout back me! Ryan is available at a best in market 70/1 - 5 Places EW with bet365 and 55/1 - 6 Places EW with BetVictor. RESULT: T32
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