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Zurich Classic Preview 2013

David Toms, the Louisiana native and LSU alum, is just one of the many attractions this weekend at TPC Louisiana.David Toms, the Louisiana native and LSU alum, is just one of the many attractions this weekend at TPC Louisiana.

The Zurich Classic, the NFL Draft and the Jazz Fest all going on this week.

Arguably - sorry, I actually see it as inarguable - that the best of these three great events is the Zurich Classic.

We will be talking about this draft for the next 51 weeks and continue observation of the results for the next seven to 10 years.

Jazz Fest has another weekend to enjoy.  And let’s be realistic.  We live here to enjoy music, food and beer all year and even close to every day of our lives.

The world class golf community only visits here once a year, and this is the week.

And I really mean world class. There are 38 players from 13 countries in the field including 14 year old sensation Tianlang Guan. Guan spent a month in New Orleans last year preparing at Lakewood Golf Course for the U.S. Open qualifying. Lakewood's Director of Instruction Jimmy Headrick, another SportsNOLA.com contributor, told us about Tianlang a year ago, and has lived up to his billing.

Another international player of note returning to New Orleans is Ernie Els. Something memorable from last year was Els taking the time to meet the press after his loss in a playoff to Jason Dufner. Though Els was discouraged after losing in the playoff, he took the time to come into the press area to be interviewed. No one would have blamed him from skipping the questioning, but his true character showed through. That style made it easy to pull for him in coming from behind to win the British Open only a few months later.

Last year Jason Dufner shot a 19 under par 269 to finally end his long wait for a PGA TOUR victory. Dufner's first victory came after eight years and 164 PGA TOUR starts. He had to go two extra holes before a birdie on 18 that finally pushed him clear of Ernie Els. Other Zurich champions returning are Bubba Watson (2011), Jason Bohn (2010), Jerry Kelly (2009), Andres Romero (2008), Nick Watney (2007), K.J. Choi (2002) and David Toms (2001).

Along with Dufner, World No. 4 Justin Rose is among just six to sign up from among the top 25 in this week's world rankings. Five of the past eight champions made New Orleans their first PGA TOUR win, and that seems strong again with so few highly ranked participants. Exciting finishes are the norm as the Zurich Classic has been decided by either one stroke or in a playoff eight times in the past 10 editions.

Ben Crane deserves special mention for his work with the St. Bernard Project (SBP). The SBP creates housing opportunities so that Hurricane Katrina survivors can return to their homes and communities. Ben and his family personally worked with SBP to rebuild homes following Hurricane Katrina, partnered with Zurich Financial Services to raise $25,000 for SBP and has placed the SBP logo on his golf bag.

Crane is also a founding member of "The Golf Boys" in which three of the four members are in the field. 2011 Zurich Champion Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler have also entered the classic. The Golf Boys have produced two videos to raise money for charity: water.

Unless the wind blows, the 7,425 yards, par 72 TPC Louisiana layout will be there for the taking. It is very difficult to build a challenging golf course in our area since we have no terrain to work with. Overall, it is impressive what designer Pete Dye along with New Orleans own Kelly Gibson has done with what was a cow pasture. Last year, TPC Louisiana ranked as the 10th easiest layout on the PGA TOUR schedule while in 2011 was ranked 20 (out of 51) in difficulty on the PGA TOUR.

All indications point to impressive scoring once again. The course is in excellent condition, the rough is down and will not be a factor. This means that the course will be defenseless without wind. However, as we learned last Sunday at Harbor Town, wind is the one weather factor that is difficult to handle.

Just like the players, you have to prepare in advance according to what you want to accomplish. Decide whether you are there to be part of the event or you are there to learn something about golf and improve your game. Your decision will determine your preparation.

Regardless, your first decision is in apparel and accessories:

• Realize that it is function over style.

• Bring, and use, sun screen.

• Wear a hat that won't blow away and sun glasses.

• Wear shoes made for distance walking. You will be walking about the distance of the Crescent City Classic. I don't think you would wear flip-flops in the CCC. And ladies, no heels please.

Here are some ideas if you are interested in improving your game:

Spend time around the practice area. Find a player that approximates your build, and watch them on the practice range. Get a sense of their routine, tempo and overall swing pattern. Take special note of their alignment to the target and posture. Before the round the pros are simply warming up and probably not working on a lot of technique. It is after their round when players really work on their technique. Schedule some time to be there late in the afternoon.

Notice how much time they spend on the pitching and chipping area. As good as their long game is, their short games are even better. It is amazing how many times they save par from improbable spots. Watch how firmly they hit these shots accelerating through the impact area. You can get close enough to this area to hear contact. Try to remember the crisp sound of a well struck pitch.

There are two approaches to take on the course itself. You may choose to follow a group around the course or park yourself in one place to observe a specific action.

TPC Louisiana is an easy course to maneuver for the spectator and provides the spectator with a variety of sights. If you want to see birdies and eagles head for holes 2, 7 and 11, the three easiest holes on the course. If you enjoy seeing the pros struggle, park yourself at the three toughest holes: 4, 6 and 17.

Even with all of events going on in the city, take advantage of this great opportunity to see some of the best players in the world. And use this as an opportunity to improve your game as well. A little planning goes a long way.

ZURICH CLASSIC NOTES

By the numbers

Total players: 156
PGA TOUR winners: 61 (for a total of 205 wins)
Major winners: 9
THE PLAYERS winners: 3
World Golf Championship winners: 8
Current FedExCup Rankings: Top 10 (1), Top 30 (13), Top 50 (25)
Official World Golf Ranking: Top 10 (1), Top 30 (8), Top 50 (15)
Foreign tour winners: 38

Champions

2013 PGA TOUR champions: John Merrick (Northern Trust Open); Michael Thompson (The Honda Classic); Scott Brown (Puerto Rico Open); D.A. Points (Shell Houston Open)

Past Champions: Jason Dufner (2012); Bubba Watson (2011); Jason Bohn (2010); Andres Romero (2008); Nick Watney (2007); K.J. Choi (2002); David Toms (2001)

International players

Country

Players

Fabian Gomez, Andres Romero

Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Steven Bowditch, Greg Chalmers, Scott Gardiner, Matt Jones, Cameron Percy, Alistair Presnell, John Senden

Nicolas Colsaerts

Stephen Ames, Graham DeLaet, Brad Fritsch, David Hearn, Mike Weir

Tianlang Guan

Camilo Villegas

Thorbjorn Olesen

Brian Davis, Ross Fisher, David Lynn, Greg Owen, Justin Rose

Marcel Seim

Shane Lowry

Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Rory Sabbatini

D.H. Lee, Seung-Yul Noh

Freddie Jacobson, David Lingmerth, Henrik Norlander, Jesper Parnevik

How they qualified

Winner - PGA/U.S. Open Championship
Keegan Bradley
Lucas Glover

Winner - THE PLAYERS Championship
K.J. Choi

Winner - The Masters
Trevor Immelman
Bubba Watson

Winner - British Open (since 1990)
Ernie Els

Winner - World Golf Championship Event
Justin Rose
Nick Watney

Tournament Winner in Past Two Years
Stephen Ames
Aaron Baddeley
Charlie Beljan
Jonas Blixt
Michael Bradley
Scott Brown
Jonathan Byrd
Ben Crane
Jason Dufner
Rickie Fowler
Tommy Gainey
J.J. Henry
Freddie Jacobson
Chris Kirk
George McNeill
John Merrick
Sean O'Hair
Scott Piercy
D.A. Points
Rory Sabbatini
Scott Stallings
Kyle Stanley
Brendan Steele
Michael Thompson
David Toms
Johnson Wagner
Gary Woodland
Career Money Exemption
Stuart Appleby
Jerry Kelly
Justin Leonard
Mike Weir

Sponsors Exemptions - Members not otherwise exempt
Jordan Spieth
Camilo Villegas

Sponsors Exemptions - Unrestricted
John Peterson
Tianlang Guan

Commissioner Exemption - 2 Foreign Players
Shane Lowry

PGA Section Champion\Player of the Year
Jake Narro

Past Champion of Respective Event
Jason Bohn
Andres Romero

Top 30 on Prior Year's FedExCup Points List
Robert Garrigus
John Senden

Top 125 on Prior Year's Official Money List
Brendon de Jonge
Matt Every
Charlie Wi
Bud Cauley
Jimmy Walker
Seung-Yul Noh
Jeff Overton
Kevin Stadler
Ken Duke
Ryan Palmer
John Rollins
Brian Davis
Charles Howell III
Charley Hoffman
Tom Gillis
William McGirt
Cameron Tringale
Troy Matteson
Harris English
Greg Chalmers
Greg Owen
John Mallinger
Brian Harman
Daniel Summerhays
Graham DeLaet
Martin Flores
David Hearn
Josh Teater
Bob Estes
Chris Stroud
Chad Campbell
Boo Weekley
Colt Knost
Robert Allenby
Ricky Barnes
Will Claxton
Roberto Castro
Jason Kokrak
David Mathis
James Driscoll
Jeff Maggert
Tim Herron

Top 125 (Prior Year Nonmember)
David Lynn
Nicolas Colsaerts

Major Medical Extension
Retief Goosen
Steve Marino
Brandt Jobe
Joey Snyder III
Kevin Sutherland
Hunter Haas
Jesper Parnevik
Hank Kuehne
Joe Ogilvie

Leading Money Winner from Web.com Tour Prior Year

Casey Wittenberg

Top 10 and Ties from the Previous Event
Billy Horschel
Marcel Siem
Thorbjorn Olesen

Top 25 & Ties Qual.Tourn/2-25 Web.com Tour Prior Year
James Hahn
Luke Guthrie
Brian Stuard
David Lingmerth
Erik Compton
Richard H Lee
Scott Langley
Nicholas Thompson
Fabian Gomez
Matt Jones
Ben Kohles
Justin Hicks
Robert Streb
Brad Fritsch
Patrick Reed
Tag Ridings
Doug LaBelle II
Shawn Stefani
Justin Bolli
Ross Fisher
Cameron Percy
Darron Stiles
Chez Reavie
Scott Gardiner
Steven Bowditch
Alistair Presnell
Peter Tomasulo
Morgan Hoffmann
Steve LeBrun
Dong-hwan Lee
Henrik Norlander
Jin Park
Luke List
Lee Williams
Robert Karlsson
Jim Herman
Neal Lancaster
Jeff Gove
Eric Meierdierks
Aaron Watkins
Michael Letzig
Derek Ernst


* Ben Crane deserves special mention for his work in St. Bernard Parish.

COURSE: TPC Louisiana, 7,425 yards, par 72. Located in the suburbs just west of New Orleans, the 2004 Pete Dye design winds through some 250 acres of Louisiana wetlands along the Mississippi River delta. The course features more than 100 bunkers, plus several large waste bunkers along the first six holes of the back nine. The Zurich Classic relocated there in 2005, though flooding a year later forced a one-time return to English Turn G&CC. Last year, TPC Louisiana ranked as the 10th easiest layout on the PGA TOUR schedule.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: The Fore!Kids Foundation, which has given more than $23 million to Louisiana children’s service organizations since its founding 55 years ago. Donations focus on health-care and education projects.

• FIELD WATCH: World No. 4 Justin Rose and defending champion Jason Dufner are among just six to sign up from among the top 25 in this week’s world rankings. ... Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese whiz who made the Masters cut two weeks ago, is in on a sponsor exemption. It’ll be relatively familiar territory – he spent a month with a family friend last year while preparing for U.S. Open qualifying.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 262, Chip Beck (1988 at Lakewood CC). TPC Louisiana record: 269, Jason Dufner and Ernie Els (2012).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Paul Stankowski (1st round, 2001 at English Turn G&CC). TPC Louisiana record: 64, Kyle Reifers (1st round, 2007), Troy Matteson (2nd round, 2009), Dean Wilson (2nd round, 2011), Greg Chalmers (2nd round, 2012), Russell Knox (2nd round, 2012), Ryan Palmer (3rd round, 2012).

• LAST YEAR: Jason Dufner shot a 19-under 269 and finally ended his long wait for a PGA TOUR victory, going two extra holes before a birdie that finally pushed him clear of a hard-charging Ernie Els.  Something memorable from last year was that even though Els was discouraged in losing the playoff, he took the time to come into the press area to be interviewed.  No one would have blamed him from skipping the questioning, but that shows his true character.  That style made it easy to pull for him in coming from behind to win the British Open only a few months later.   The World Golf Hall of Famer made up a three-shot deficit with a closing 67, but missed a 16-foot try at birdie on the final hole of regulation. Els then missed a 5-foot birdie attempt when they replayed No. 18 to start the playoff. Dufner put an end to it on the third pass, reaching the green in two and lagging up to a tap-in birdie. Els found a fairway bunker on the second replay, missing a long birdie from the fringe. Dufner’s first victory came after eight years and 164 PGA TOUR starts.

• STORYLINES: Dufner, seeking to become the fifth man to win back-to-back in New Orleans, hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in his past four visits. He tied for third in 2011, seventh a year earlier and ninth in 2009. … Els has three top-3 finishes in six starts in New Orleans, though last year was the first time he had played TPC Louisiana. … Five of the past eight champions made New Orleans their first PGA TOUR win, a trend that seems strong again with so few highly ranked participants. … Former champ David Toms, whose 2001 win preceded a PGA Championship title, will play his home-state event for the 20th time.

• SHORT CHIPS: The Zurich Classic has been decided by either one stroke or in a playoff eight times in the past 10 editions. The lone exceptions were won by Nick Watney (2007) and Jason Bohn (2010). … Champions Tour pro Neal Lancaster makes his fourth PGA TOUR start of 2013, given a sponsor exemption.

Fast facts

Course Superintendent

Robb R. Arnold

Original architect

Pete Dye (2003)

Par value

72

Number of TOUR events as host venue

7 (including 2012)

Course ranking

Ranked 20 (out of 51) in difficulty on the PGA TOUR in 2011

Yardage history

7,520 (2005)

7,341 (2007-present)

Grass

TifSport bermudagrass (tees, fairways, rough); Mini verde bermudagrass (greens)

Tournament Stimpmeter

11 ft

Sand bunkers

71

Water hazards

5

Toughest hole

The par-3 215-yard 17th -- Bunkers to the left were eliminated and replaced by bulkheading but the pot bunker on the right remains. Par will be a great score on the recently reshaped green. 

Easiest hole

The par-5 575-yard 11th -- After pounding a driver on this long Par-5, decisions must be made. Going for the green in two requires the 2nd shot to be maneuvered around the tall cypress tree in the middle of the fairway, a mere 80 yards from the green. Laying up on the hole is tricky as well. Make sure the lay-up is well to the right of the cypress tree so you will have an easier approach to a well-guarded, narrow green. 

TPC Louisiana's 18 Holes

Hole

Par

Yards

1

4

399

2

5

548

3

3

221

4

4

482

5

4

438

6

4

476

7

5

561

8

4

372

9

3

207

10

4

390

11

5

575

12

4

492

13

4

377

14

3

216

15

4

490

16

4

355

17

3

215

18

5

585

Course origins

The 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be the seventh event held at TPC Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina and the eighth event at TPC Louisiana since 2005. The course suffered severe damage during Katrina, but the hurricane did allow for several changes to be made on the course. The new areas debuted during the 2007 Zurich Classic. This is the 54th anniversary of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the fourth home of this storied PGA TOUR event.

The course is 7,520 yards long and a stern test for PGA TOUR players and guests. The course is designed to give players a good shot, but to also challenge their shot-making ability. The rough is not severe but there is plenty of trouble if players stray from the fairways. --Source: Golf Course Superintendents Assocation of America

Tournament course history

Course

Location

Years

City Park GC

New Orleans, La.

1938-1962

Lakewood CC

New Orleans, La.

1963-1988

English Turn G&CC

New Orleans, La.

1989-2004, 2006

TPC Louisiana

Avondale, La.

2005, 2007-present