Zurich Classic: Time to get laying, says The Punter

Boo Weekley – The Punter’s only pick from the start
Boo Weekley – The Punter’s only pick from the start

Our man isn't keen on the chances of any of the fancied runners in New Orleans so it's a case of poacher turned gamekeeper on the PGA Tour this week. Read his in-depth preview here...

“Given how open the event looks, how many first-timers have succeeded here, and how many outsiders have won both this season already and at this event, I thought I’d put my laying boots back on.”


Tournament History

This will be the 68th staging of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. It was first staged as far back as 1938 but the tournament wasn't played between 1949 and 1957. 


Venue

TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana


Course Details
Par 72 -7,341 yards 
Stroke Index in 2013 - 70.75

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.

The rough is reported to be lower than in previous years and with benign weather conditions forecast we can expect the venue to again yield to some very low scores. 


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Site
Course Details
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days - 20:00 on Thursday and Friday and 18:00 over the weekend


Last Five Winners

2013 - Billy Horschel -20
2012 - Jason Dufner -19 (playoff)
2011 - Bubba Watson -15 (playoff)
2010 - Jason Bohn -18
2009 - Jerry Kelly -14


What will it take to win the Zurich Classic?

When Jason Bohn won in 2010 he ranked 2nd for driving accuracy and twelve months later, Bubba Watson topped the driving distance stats but they're the two anomalies in the two categories. Most years it matters little whether you're especially long or accurate from the tee-box - Billy Horschel ranked 63rd for fairways found last year and the inaugural course winner, Tim Petrovic ranked 88th. And he also only ranked 49th for driving distance. When Jerry Kelly won, he ranked 66th. It's what you do after the drive that counts here and the most important stat to consider is greens in regulation.

Horschel ranked 2nd twelve months ago and he was the sixth winner in seven years to rank inside the top-ten for greens hit. The only two players that failed to make the top-ten were Petrovic in 2005 (T20) and Jason Dufner in 2012 (T25).

Par 5 performance is the other stat to consider. The last three winners have all played the long holes in double-digits under-par and the worst any winner here has ranked on the par 5s is 18th (Bohn). 


Is there an angle in?

Could this finally be the week that Graham DeLaet breaks through? He currently ranks 3rd for greens in regulation, was 4th here two years ago and like eight of the last 12 winners, he's looking to win his first PGA Tour event. I backed him at 85.084/1 last year so I'm not in the least bit interested at less than 30.029/1 but this is certainly a tournament that first-time winners flourish at and in a season that's already seen many first-timers go in, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see another oblige.


Is there an identikit winner?

Young or old, straight or wayward, long or short, it just doesn't seem to matter here. All sorts have won at TPC Louisiana already so it's impossible to nail down a certain type to do well but it's possibly worth noting that the last three winners have all had a touch of class about them and that all three went on to perform well in majors after winning here. Bubba Watson won the first of his two Green Jackets after winning here, Jason Dufner won the PGA Championship the following season and Horschel finished 4th at last year's US Open and he's widely regarded as a possible major champion given time. Will this year's winner be an up-and-coming future major champ?


In-Play Tactics

Although Horschel won from tied 12th and six shots back at halfway last year I'd be inclined to concentrate on the leaders from early on. He was actually only three back after round one before a poor second round saw him slip back a bit but that was still as far back as any winner had been after round one in five years and the previous four winners were all in front by halfway.

Weekend rounds of 66 and 64 saw him move through the field to win by one but he was definitely helped by the rain-softened conditions and a weather delay on day four and I'll be favouring the pacesetters again this year.


Market Leaders

With course form and current form on display, it's no surprise to see Justin Rose heading the market. He ranked 1st for greens in regulation last year but putted particularly poorly and could only finish 15th, following a 10th placed finish in 2012.  It's probably about time the US open champion threatened to win again and I wouldn't put anyone off him at a venue he's played well at before.

Rickie Fowler's swing changes are starting to pay dividends and he arrives here on the back of a 6th placed finish at the Houston Open and a top-5 at the US Masters. His form figures here read 26-10-32 over the last three years so he's likely to contend but given he still only has one victory on the PGA Tour, I really don't want to back him at just 21.020/1.

Third favourite, Keegan Bradley, is turning into something of an enigma of late. He finished poorly at the Honda Classic after getting into the argument, then shot no better than 74 the following week at the Cadillac Championship. He made some dreadful errors in-contention a week later at the Arnold Palmer but still finished runner-up and then the week after that he opened up with a fine 66 at the Houston Open but followed that opening round with a 77! 

He missed the cut at the US Masters a fortnight ago but his Augusta form wasn't great anyway, so that wasn't the biggest surprise ever. It isn't great here either though, with figures that read 26-MC-MC and I couldn't have him on my radar at just 22.021/1.

I've already touched on the chances of the 4th best in the market, Graham DeLaet, and it's really quite simple, backing players that have never won, and that have not performed especially well when in with a chance of winning, at just 25.024/1 on the PGA Tour is tantamount to lunacy as far as I'm concerned. His chance is very obvious but his price is appalling. 


Selections

Boo Weekley enjoys it around here and he did well enough for me twelve months ago to warrant giving him another chance this time around at an even bigger price. He finished 6th last year when going off at 85.084/1 so when he inched out to 120.0119/1 I thought I'd get him onside. He hasn't been in the best of form of late but his 68 at Hilton Head was eye-catching enough.

Given how open the event looks, how many first-timers have succeeded here, and how many outsiders have won both this season already and at this event, I thought I'd put my laying boots back on

The plan is to take on everyone at a double-figure price before the off and to see where I'm standing at halfway. I'm not going to be around too much for the first couple of days so I haven't gone mad but by the time all my lays are matched I'm going to be starting the event with a plus of approximately £400 should a triple-figure priced player go on to win or a minus of approximately £400 should an outsider win.

I'll be back on Saturday morning with my In-Play Blog and I'll be able to more precise figures then.

Selections:
Boo Weekley @ 120.0119/1

Lay Book
Double-figured players layed to lose around £400


I'll be back later with my preview of the Indonesian Masters and if you missed it earlier, here's my look at the Volvo China Open.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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