Zurich Classic: What to watch for

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I’m not going to sit here and pretend I love this event. Any team event in golf that isn’t The Ryder Cup or The Presidents Cup, just doesn’t pass the sniff test to me. Sure, its fun and entertaining, but the fact that it’s for a legitimate PGA Tour event, and both winners get the same Fed Ex Cup points they would if winning an event on their own, just doesn’t sit too well with me. Yes, its only FedEx Cup points and not World Golf Ranking points, but still. Further to that, any event (excluding Ryder and Presidents Cups) that puts Alternate Shot and Best Ball into play, should be saved for the off season fun events.

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, this weeks Zurich Classic of New Orleans is a two-man team event taking place at TPC Louisiana. There are 80 teams of two making up the field, with Best Ball being played on Thursday and Saturday, while Alternate Shot will be played on Friday and Sunday. After Friday’s second round, the top-35 teams (including ties) will advance to the weekend.

Negativity aside, there are some intriguing aspects to the event, starting with… WALK-UP MUSIC! Every team making it to the weekend will be greeted on the first tee with a song of their choice, a la Major League Baseball. Some of the choices?

My personal favourite: Harold Varner III and Robert Garrigus with Ebony and Ivory

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The Korean duo of KJ Choi and Charlie Wi selected Gangnam Style by Psy. If they don’t come to the first tee like this, they’re doing it all wrong:

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Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners are going with Big League by Tom Cochrane and Red Rider. They chose that particular track in honor of the victims in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. I imagine they have extended those wishes to the victims of the Toronto Van Attack earlier this week. It’s been a tough couple of weeks here, so yet another kind gesture from these guys is great to see.

Two Australian teams are going with the obvious choice, Down Under, by Aussie band Men at Work. That will be played for the duos of Jason Day/Ryan Ruffels, and Greg Chalmers/Cameron Percy if they make it to the weekend.

A couple of other good ones:

South Africans Retief Goosen and Tyrone Van Aswegen will come out to Africa by Toto.

Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley will go with Circle of Life from the Lion King soundtrack

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And after a lot of deliberation, the team of Kevin Tway and Kelly Kraft have chosen Gucci Gang by Lil Pump — a song sure to not be known by a vast majority of both the players on Tour and fans in attendance. They also made sure to announce it will be the CLEAN version.

The other enticing aspect of this event, to me at least, is the pairings. Aside from the ones I mentioned above, below are the ones that caught my eye:

  • Potential Ryder Cup previews in Rafa Cabrera-Bello with Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell with Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker with JB Holmes, Patrick Reed with Patrick Cantlay, and Bubba Watson with Matt Kuchar
  • Upcoming Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk, with former Ryder Cupper and current Golf Channel analyst David Duval
  • Texas connections — Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer
  • John Daly and Rory Sabbatini
  • Wesley Bryan and Jon Rahm
  • Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson
  • South Africans Charles Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen
  • Jason Dufner and Pat Perez

In the inaugural playing of this event last season, Kevin Kisner holed out from 30 yards for an eagle on the final hole, sending him and teammate/buddy Scott Brown into a playoff with Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt. Blixt and Smith went on to win on the third playoff hole, but Kisner’s hole-out remained the highlight of the week. Hopefully we see some more fireworks coming down the stretch again this year.

I’m not going to make any personal picks this week; for two reasons.

One, my picks last week were atrocious. They stunk out loud. And two, with this being a team event, I don’t have a very reliable way to handicap the event and honestly tell you who I think has the best chance to win.

So, instead, here are the five teams I am HOPING will compete for the title, in no particular order. Some are for personal reasons, others would just be fun to see.

  • Rory Sabbatini and John Daly
  • Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar
  • Jason Dufner and Pat Perez
  • Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly
  • Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley

Special mention to Conners & Hughes. I don’t expect them to win or be right up there in contention, but here’s hoping they can make the cut and get to walk-up to their song.

For more on this week, plus my thoughts on the Toronto Tragedy, last weeks event, some future plans for Teeing Off, Golf leaking into other sports, and more… check out this week’s podcast:

And thank you for reading! Follow on Twitter for more @RJMcCullough

Enjoy the weekend!


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