Previewing the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

This week’s stop on the PGA Tour is the Zurich Class of New Orleans.  This field should be much stronger than what we saw last week in San Antonio, as many of the biggest names in the sport took the week off to recuperate after The Masters.  18 of the world’s top 50 players will be in attendance, including 4 from the top 10.  Part of the reason that the field is so strong, especially for a mid-tier tournament, is the fact that the Zurich Classic has taken a page out of the book of several other tournaments, and has signed some of the world’s top level talent to “personal service contracts” and other private deals.  Basically, they are being given an appearance fee to show up.

The site of this week’s, tournament, the TPC Louisiana, was created by hall of famer Pete Dye.  It is not, however, considered one of his most crowning achievements.  Nonetheless, it is clearly a tour-ready track, regardless of the fact that it ranked 45th out of a possible 52 courses in a survey of PGA Tour players.

Last year’s tournament, eventually won by Bubba Watson in a playoff over Webb Simpson, was not lacking its fair share of controversy.  That controversy, however, lead to a significant change in the PGA rulebook.  Simpson was tied with Watson on the 15th hole in the final round, when he stood over a tap in putt.  As often happens in windy conditions, the ball moved a miniscule amount, and Simpson was ultimately assessed a 1 stroke penalty.   That penalty caused him to go to a playoff with Watson, which he eventually lost.  The good news is that as of January 1, 2012, the PGA has changed the rule so that if the ball moves after address, as long as it is clear that the player did not cause the movement, there will be no penalty assessed.

According to, Luke Donald and Bubba Watson are the favorites to win this week at 12/1, followed by:  Justin Rose (15/1), Keegan Bradley and Steve Stricker (both 20/1).  It will be interesting to see how the week off affected those players that took advantage of it.  Additionally, Bubba Watson is certainly going to be placed under a microscope this week, coming off of his emotional victory at Augusta National in the Masters.