This week’s Zurich Classic is a wild deviation from the normal week to week play on the PGA Tour. Smack in the middle between the Masters and PGA Championship, golfers will shift from the more traditional 72 holes of stroke play to playing in teams. There will be 80 duos playing the rarely used four-ball and foursomes format this weekend at TPC Louisiana.
And there’s a lot to like about both this event and the format that’s going to be used. Especially considering many of the pairs that have been put together for the Zurich Classic. There’s a couple powerhouse contenders and plenty other interesting duos among the favorites, which should make for a unique weekend and interesting tournament held just outside of New Orleans.
Let’s take a closer look at this week’s contest with odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
Event: 2022 Zurich Classic | Dates: April 21-23
Location: TPC Louisiana — Avondale, Louisiana
Three things to know
1. The format: If you’re familiar with the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, you’ll be used to the formats used this week. The only consternation since this event turned into team play has been how to end the final round. This year, the format will be best ball on Thursday and Saturday for Round 1 and Round 3 and foursomes (or alternate shot) on Friday and Sunday for Round 2. Last year, this turned thrilling when Marc Leishman chipped in on the 16th for birdie after Cameron Smith drove his shot into the water and the Australian team went on to win in a playoff. While four-ball (or best ball) leads to lower scores, foursomes is probably more intriguing come the final day.
2. Ryder Cup redux: Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland played each other in singles on Sunday during the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits last year and shot a best-ball 59. Now, they’re both ranked in the top five in the world and decided to pair together for this event. Incredibly, they’re not even the outright favorites. That distinction is shared with Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, who also played together (albeit on the same team) at Whistling Straits, putting together a 2-0-0 record. They’re both ranked in the top 12 in the world right now, and while neither pairing includes the two hottest players in golf (Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith), both will be absolutely menacing in four-ball (all four are in the top 13 on the PGA Tour in birdie percentage so far this season). If either team plays well in foursomes, they’ll probably go on to win.
3. Scottie emerges: Geoff Shackelford pointed this out earlier in the week, but we have not seen Scheffler since he put on the green jacket at Augusta National, which is not the norm when it comes to Masters champions. We will see him this weekend as he’s paired with Ryan Palmer, who has now played with Scheffler (No. 1 at the time), Jon Rahm (No. 11 at the time), Rahm again (No. 3 at the time) and Jordan Spieth (No. 3 at the time). That’s humorous and will provide fodder for the week, but I’m excited to hear from Scheffler and see where his game is at following three straight months of winning everything he’s looked at.
Grading the field
Interestingly, this is not a tournament that counts toward the Official World Golf Rankings because the OWGR doesn’t give out points for team events. Still, the field is strong with the four top 12 player mentioned above along with Smith, Scheffler, Sam Burns, Billy Horschel (paired together), Tyrrell Hatton (with Danny Willett), Tommy Fleetwood (with Sergio Garcia), Harold Varner III (with Bubba Watson) and Joaquin Niemann (with Mito Pereira). Add it all up, and half of the top 20 players in the world will tee it up this weekend. Additionally, Bill Haas and his dad, Jay (age 68), will play as a team this week. Grade: A
Rick Gehman is joined by Kyle Porter, Jonathan Coachman and Mark Immelman to preview the 2022 Zurich Classic. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Zurich Classic expert picks
Winners — Sam Burns & Billy Horschel (12-1): Both have quietly been playing some high-quality golf, and they finished two shots out of a playoff at this event last year. If you look at the last 20 rounds of everybody in this field, both Horschel and Burns are in the top 20 in this field in overall strokes gained. There aren’t a lot of teams, including Hovland and Morikawa, who can claim that. I also like how their skillsets complement one another, and they should thrive in the alternate shot format.
Top 10 finish — Will Zalatoris & Davis Riley (5/2): I originally picked this duo to win, and there might be a video floating around out there of me saying that very thing, but I’m backpedaling that the last second. Zalatoris is enough to carry Riley around even if Riley doesn’t have his best stuff. However, other than a nice showing and near win at the Valspar Championship, Riley has not actually hit the ball well this year. Still, Zalatoris stands out as one of the best hitters in the field and is coming off another tremendous Masters performance. While I don’t love them to win anymore, I do like them a lot to sneak inside that top 10 at a pretty good number.
Sleepers — Maverick McNealy & Joseph Bramlett (50-1): Bramlett is a favorite of DFS aficionados for his ball-striking, and McNealy has been playing some of the best golf of anybody in this field. The deficiencies Bramlett lacks in his short game could be covered up by McNealy’s proficiency in that area. McNealy has low-key been really solid this season with only one missed cut and five top 20s in 15 starts. He comes in ranked 16th in the field in total strokes gained in his last 20 rounds played.