This will be the 69th staging of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The inaugural event was as far back as 1938 but the tournament wasn't played between 1949 and 1957.
TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana
Par 72 -7,341 yards
Stroke Index in 2014 - 71.21
The TPC Louisiana made its event debut in 2005 but just a year later the tournament returned to its old venue, English Turn, after Hurricane Katrina devastated this venue. The event returned in 2007 and it's been played here ever since.
TPC Louisiana, like Hilton Head last week, is a Bermuda grass Pete Dye design. Built on 250 acres of former swamp land, the course has 71 bunkers and fully 20 acres of the site are covered in sand! Water is in play on eight holes and the average-sized greens will be running at around 11 on the stimpmeter.
It can't possibly be described as tough and last year, 10 holes averaged under-par for the week. The par 5 8th was the easiest, averaging almost half a stroke under-par, and the par 4 4th was the toughest, but that only averaged 4.24 so it's basically just a birdie-fest. And it will be especially easy this year after a period of wet weather has made the course quite soft.
Alternative Weather Forecast
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.
Last Five Winners
2014 - Seung-Yul Noh -19
2013 - Billy Horschel -20
2012 - Jason Dufner -19 (playoff)
2011 - Bubba Watson -15 (playoff)
2010 - Jason Bohn -18
What Will it Take to Win The Zurich Classic?
The nine course winners to date have had an average Driving Distance ranking of 28.77 and an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 43.55 so if you're tossing up between a short accurate player off the tee and a wayward bomber then I'd suggest the latter but given that the likes of Tim Petrovic, Jason Bohn and Jerry Kelly have all tasted success here, you certainly don't have to hit it miles.
What you do off the tee is largely irrelevant, this a second shot course with seven of the nine winners all ranked inside the top-ten for Greens In Regulation. Bubba Watson only ranked 44th for putting when he won four years ago but four of the last five have had a Putting Average ranking inside the top-ten and since the PGA Tour have produced Strokes Gained Putting stats, the three winners have ranked 6th, 3rd and 11th. It's a birdie-fest and basically a putting contest so look to those putting really well at present.
Is There an Angle In?
I can't stress enough that it's very early to make predictions on the weather but there definitely looks like we could see a draw bias here over the first two days with the late starters on day one getting the better of it.
I've made predictions like this before and received a bit of stick on Twitter when it doesn't pan out the way I thought it might so there's plenty of risk involved and keeping a close eye on the forecasts is absolutely essential. The draw isn't made until late tomorrow and it could all have changed by then but it could change to favour the last starters even more so it's certainly worth exploring.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Long or short, young or old, it makes little odds here. We've seen very different types of player win but many of them have shared a number of characteristics.
Outsiders have a very good record here and last year's winner went off at around 160.0159/1 but what really is striking is how many first-timers have won at TPC Louisiana.
Seung-Yul Noh was winning his first PGA Tour title 12 months ago and he was the seventh Zurich Classic winner in 10 years to break his duck in this tournament. And even if he'd have slipped up, a maiden would still have won as the first four home were all in search of that elusive first title.
There's every possibility that come Sunday evening we're once again heralding a big-priced first time winner and this looks a great event to back an outsider or two.
Robert Garrigus, mastered the wind better than anyone last year and he came from way off the pace to finish tied for 5th but he was the only player in the top-seven to be outside the top-11 after round one and it seems you really have to be in-the-mix by halfway.
Halfway leader, Ben Martin, crashed over the weekend but the first three home sat second and tied for third after round two 12 months ago and four of the last six winners were already in front after 36 holes.
Three winners, Petrovic, Andres Romero and Billy Horschel have bucked that trend and come from outside the top-ten and from eight, six and six shots back at halfway but they all made the ground up in round three and all 12 winners and playoff protagonists at this venue have been within three strokes of the lead with a round to go.
The first three in the market - Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Jason Day - will all have to overcome varying degrees of disappointment after the US Masters.
Johnson, who's played here only once before, when he missed the cut in 2008, was in-the-mix for most of the year's first major but never really looked like getting to Jordan Spieth and of the three, he's definitely the one I like most. The soft conditions should see the big-hitters advantaged slightly over the shorter players and his tied 6th two weeks ago was by some distance his best effort at Augusta.
He was in fine fettle prior to the Masters and is just the sort of character to shrug off disappointment quickly - that's if he was even down about how the event transpired. He's a dangerous man to dismiss lightly this year and he's definitely my idea of the most likely winner.
Day had a very strange Masters I thought. He loves Augusta and when fit he's played really well there previously so what happened after his opening 67 is a bit of a mystery. The big-hitting Aussie has played here twice previously, he finished 32nd in 2009, 12 months after missing the cut on debut, and he makes little appeal at a short enough price.
Of the three market leaders, Rose is the one with the biggest disappointment to overcome and I don't fancy him at the prices either. I know Spieth was sensational but Rose did put him under pressure at the beginning of round four and I'm fairly sure he'll be disappointed by the way things panned out around the turn. He didn't really do much wrong but he'll still feel he could have done more and if he started slowly on Thursday (something he does with regularity anyway) I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised.
Compared to Dustin and Day, Rose is a veritable TPC Louisiana veteran and this will be his eighth visit. In his seven previous attempts, he's missed the cut a couple of times and he trailed in -in 43rd five years ago but his other four visits have yielded a 17th place on debut in 2005 and finishes of 10th, 15th and 8th over the last three years.
There may not be any selections this week but if there are I'll republish the preview and update Twitter. The market is immature at present and I also want to wait and see how the weather forecasts pan out but I am going to be laying the market leaders again.
Given how many outsiders and how many first-time winners have won here, it makes sense to lay everyone under 100.099/1 before the off and see where that takes me. It's an experiment I've tried before to varying degrees of success (including in this event 12 months ago) and it just makes for a varied and interesting week.
Selections and Lay Book Update - April 22
I wrote about a possible draw bias on Monday but it doesn't look like there'll be much of one. Tomorrow looks benign all day and the wind is due to pick up a bit on Friday afternoon so it is possible that those drawn late/early will just about get the better of it but it's certainly not significant.
I've finished with my book for now and I've finished up backing two players and laying 24. The two I've backed are last week's very impressive runner-up, Kevin Kisner, and big-hitting Web.com graduate, Tony Finau.
The shortest priced player I've layed is Dustin Johnson and the biggest priced is Martin Laird, with stakes ranging from £10 to £100. As it stands, and should I leave things as they are, a win for any one of the 24 players layed would see me lose somewhere between £318 (Laird and Merritt) and £390 (Johnson) if they went on to win. A victory for Kisner would see me win a fraction over £1500 and a win for Finau would see me profit to the tune of £4,100. Should any one of the other players I haven't layed go on to win I'd make a profit of just a shade over £600.
No doubt, that will all change as the tournament progresses, depending on how much I meddle, but I'll keep you posted in the In-Play Blog, which I'll begin on Friday, and if anyone has any questions, fire away on Twitter or in the comments box below.
It may seem quite complicated but at this stage, I'm basically laying the 24 most likely winners at combined odds of around 4/6.
Kevin Kisner @ 100.099/1
Tony Finau @ 250.0249/1
Worst Case Scenario -£390
Best Case Scenario +£601
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter