Zurich Classic of New Orleans: South Africans to shine

Grace and Oosthuizen have great chemistry
Grace and Oosthuizen have great chemistry

Dave Tindall landed yet more profit last week with 25/1 runner-up Brooks Koepka, and he's back to preview this week's PGA Tour event in New Orleans...

"The South African pair memorably won four matches out four together at the 2015 Presidents Cup in South Korea and took down some big scalps on the way."

Main Bet: Back Grace/Oosthuizen @ 17.016/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Main Bet: Back Grace/Oosthuizen e/w @ 16/1

I don't really want to take anyone at single-figure prices in this new pairs format which sees two rounds of foursomes (Thursday and Saturday) and two rounds of fourballs (Friday and Sunday).

So, despite their obvious credentials, I'll pass the trio of market leaders. That's Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson at 11/2. Jason Day and Rickie Fowler at 6/1 and Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer at 9/1.

If finding holes, I'd say Stenson's form is weird (three straight missed cuts) and it's his course debut, Spieth (missed cut here on only appearance in 2013) is coming off a closing 75 and failed final-day challenge at the Masters and Fowler's record at this venue is mixed (20-MC-MC-32 the last four years).

A little further down, Thomas Pieters (partners Daniel Berger) has played superbly this year but struggled on Bermuda grass and that's the deal this week. Bubba Watson (with J.B. Holmes) is flying in from China where he went from first-round leader to T26, leaving him without a strokeplay top 20 in 2017.

But, I am happy to play the duo listed sixth in the betting - Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen.

The South African pair memorably won four matches out four together at the 2015 Presidents Cup in South Korea and took down some big scalps on the way.

On day one they beat Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar 3&2 in the foursomes, in Friday's fourballs they blasted Dustin Johnson and Spieth 4&3, on Saturday morning they defeated Reed and Fowler 3&2 in the foursomes and in the afternoon it was the turn of Bubba and Holmes to be outbattled (1up) in the final fourballs.

The team dynamic was huge, something they analysed and looked back on recently.

"We've been mates for a long time and we play good together," Grace told pgatour.com. "Obviously with our history at the Presidents Cup, it's been great and I think this is a good chance to get a win under the belt as a team.

"At the Presidents Cup in Korea, we both played a type of game where neither of us really did anything wrong. Neither of us made any silly mistakes and that's really the key, especially in a team format."

Oosthuizen added: "We gel well together. There's not a lot of 'sorrys' from either of us when you hit a bad shot because we are obviously not trying to hit bad shots. Once Gracie gets his putter going, he can make quite a few birdies in a round. That's always nice and can come in handy, especially in the best-ball format."

Incidentally, the last two times Oosthuizen has had Grace as a playing partner he's shot 68 (Alfred Dunhill Links) and 64 (Deutsche Bank Championship).

The obvious downside is that both Grace and Oosthuizen have never played this course before.

It's some sort of concern but note that Byeong-Hun An, Bobby Wyatt, Patton Kizzire and Harold Varner all made the top eight on their course debuts last year. The latter three are all outside the top 120 in the world rankings, so if they can....

Oosthuizen didn't have his best stuff at the Masters (T41) but had been in decent nick before that while Grace has improved from T27 at Augusta National to T11 at The Heritage (like this, a Pete Dye track) before T10 in last week's Texas Open.

In fact, Futureoffantasy.com's list of top 25 performers on Pete Dye courses shows Grace ranked 8th while he's third in the table measuring his Pete Dye numbers against Expected Strokes Gained elsewhere.

It's Bermuda greens at TPC Louisiana and Oosthuizen performs relatively better on such surfaces than he does on other grass types.

They are the extra details but the main one is that these two know they can create magic together and become greater than the sum of their parts.

Take the 16/1.

Next Best: Back English/Swafford e/w @ 50/1

I'll go for the great mates angle again by making Harris English and Hudson Swafford my next picks at 50/1.

These two are both Georgia Bulldogs, huge friends off the course (English flew in late to the 2014 Sony Open after attending Swafford's wedding) and even get mistaken for each other due to certain similarities in appearance.

Swafford made the big breakthrough when landing the CareerBuilder Challenge in California in January and, after a dip, hit back with T10 at Bay Hill and T6 in the Houston Open. We can forgive him a missed cut on his Masters debut.

Generally then, Swafford is playing some excellent golf again and two years ago at TPC Louisiana he was second after 36 holes before finishing T12.

English, it has to be said, hasn't been getting the results he's wanted. A top 15 at Torrey Pines was solid but he's missed three cuts out of seven since and only really showed hints of good play such as the second-round 65 which helped him take T27 at the Valspar Championship.

But what I really like about him is his repuation in team play. The Shark Shootout is a familiar, if non-counting (for FedEx Cup), event on the PGA Tour schedule and English has an incredible record alongside Matt Kuchar.

The duo have teed it up four times in that 54-hole event which, since 2014, uses a format of scramble, greensomes (like foursomes but both players tee off on every hole) and fourballs.

Their finishing positions read 1-2-2-1. The most recent win came in December when English eagled the 71st hole in a closing 65 which put them at 28-under.

You'll need to go low again this week - the winning scores at the last five editions of the Zurich Classic read -15, -22, -19, -20 and -19 - so it helps that English and Swafford are both in the top 35% for Birdie Average this season.

Clearly, English relishes playing in a pair and, in the hope that he can have the same chemistry with Swafford that he does with Kuchar, I think the two Georgia products are worth a play at 50/1.

Jason Dufner has a win (with Brandt Snedeker) and a third at the Shark Shootout while he won the 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans on this course.

With a quality partner, I'd be keen to play him but I'm not sure Patton Kizzire is that man. Going back to October, in 12 starts Kizzire has missed seven cuts and finished better than T50 just once. Okay, that was T32 at The Heritage last time but I'm not sure he'll give Dufner the necessary support.

I also looked at Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney.

Hoffman has a couple of third places in the Shark Shootout (one with Billy Horschel, the other with Daniel Berger) while he's posted T11 and T5 in the last two Zurich Classics. We also saw Hoffman have a strong Masters (R1 leader) although he's since finished MC-40.

Watney won the Zurich Classic back in 2007 when the future looked very bright but he's not been the same player for a long time now.

He showed some decent form with a pair of top 15s in Florida but missed cuts on his last two starts are negatives and overall I'll look elsewhere.

Final Bet: Back Barber/Henley e/w @ 50/1

Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley could go well and were close to getting the nod.

Thomas needs no introduction after his three wins this season but the extra positives are a T12 on his only start at the Zurich Classic and a strong weekend at Augusta National (T22).

He's chosen good pal Cauley and both went to Alabama whose sports teams are located in the Southeastern Conference, the same as New Orleans. It's not far from being a home game for the pair.

Thomas is the main man of course but Cauley is coming in off back-to-back top 10s (Heritage and Texas Open). He was also T11 at the Zurich Classic on his last visit in 2014.

The credentials are strong but I think the 20/1 presumes Cauley will flourish again and I'm not so sure he can.

Instead, I'll head back to the 50/1 shots and take Russell Henley and Blayne Barber.

Looking back, these two were teammates on the 2011 US Palmer Cup squad. They were paired together in one of the two pairs matches and won 3&2.

Henley is having an excellent season and his last three starts show a win at the Houston Open, T11 at the Masters and T26 in The Heritage. He played the weather-shortened 2016 Zurich Classic and shot 69-73-68 for T36.

Barber is the one who needs closer scrutiny obviously and there's nothing amazing about his numbers although perhaps enough to suggest he can shine.

He's made his last six cuts on the PGA Tour, including T26 at the Heritage, and finished T8 in the 2015 Zurich Classic on this course.

Back in November, he was runner-up at the RSM Classic while the Florida man has some good Web.com form in Louisiana (T11 and T6).

He's a good putter (24th in Strokes Gained: Putting) while the pair are 18th (Henley) and 56th respectively in the Birdie Average stats.

There's only one round of evidence of them playing together as pros but at least it's positive. They were paired in round three of October's Sanderson Farms Championship and both shot 69.

With six pay-out places this week, they have a decent chance of taking one of them.

Dave's 2016/17 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £670
Returned: £1619.06
P/L: +£949.06

(After the Valero Texas Open)

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