2008 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Mar. 27-30, TPC Louisiana, Avondale, LA, Golf Channel/NBC
by Matt of Predictem.com
The final regular Tour stop before the year’s first Major kicks off this week from Avondale, LA as players tee it up at the Zurich Classic. Some of your favorites will skip the event to prep for Augusta, but those who make the stop will take on the TPC Louisiana course, a 7,341 yard, par-72, Pete Dye design. $1.16 million of the $6.2 million total purse goes to the winner along with the winner’s share of FedExCup Points. Watch the early rounds on The Golf Channel and catch the weekend on NBC.
The TPC will challenge the players with it’s lengthwhile stilldemanding shotmaking. The course has been tweaked in recent years to enhance playability yet retain difficulty. The par-3 third hole measures 221 yards and tests the player with mounding front of the green and water in the back and right. Players will need to be up too speed early to tame this hole. The finishing two holes will certainly play center stage should the tournament come down to the wire on Sunday. Seventeen is another lengthy par-3 at 215 yards, with a re-shaped green that will make par a good score. Eighteen is a middle length par-5 at 589 yards that is a true risk/reward hole with fairway mounding that will test the golfers to lay up in the right area should they decide not to go for the green in two. The course has been good to golfers looking for their first win however, five players have earned their first PGA victory in the last six years here.
Tiger and Phil are absent leaving the golf sportsbooks to find a new favorite this week, and Jim Furyk lands on top of the board at 12 to 1 for the outright win. Furyk has played well of late, most recently coming off a t2 at the WGC-CA Championship that included a 64/68 weekend. The Tour’s 33rd ranked All Around golfer, Furyk ranks 12th in both driving accuracy (73.3%) and par-5 birdie percentage (49.4%). Furyk can also be found at 5 to 2 odds to log a top-5 finish this week.
Steve Stricker is next up at 14 to 1 to win and 3 to 1 for a top-5. Another hot stick, Stricker has 4 top-10 finishes in seven events in ’08 and has not finished outside 15th in his last four. Stricker went out with a bang at the CA, firing a 63 and finishing 6th, bringing his Tour leading final round scoring average to 66.4. Stricker gets it done with accuracy versus length, ranking 9th in greens in regulation (71.2%) leading to a 69.62 stroke scoring average, 7th on Tour.
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Padraig Harrington lands at 16 to 1 for the win and 7 to 2 for the top-5 bet. Playing in his first U.S. event since the Accenture Match Play, Harrington has yet to finish outside the top-25 in his three starts, highlighted by a t3 at the Northern Trust. Paddy had the length to win here, averaging 292.8 yards off the tee (PGA ranked 17th) and is the 3rd best in terms of scoring average at 69.3.
Reteif Goosen will net a 18 to 1 return should he take the trophy this week and is 4 to 1 to take a spot in the top-5. Goosen has struggled in the early ’08 season, but is rounding into shape with a t14 at the Palmer and a t2 at the WGC-CA last week. Even with the shaky results, Goosen has a decent scoring average of 70.2 and can contend if he can get it to Saturday in good shape, he averages 67.6 in round 3.
Stewart Cink is another good look this week, he is a bit further back at 20 to 1 for the win and 9 to 2 for a top-5. Cink has three top-10’s in six events and has gone 2, 2, t20 in his last three starts. Cink gets it done on the approach with a 71.05 GIR%, good for 11th on Tour.
A couple of looks a little deeper on the board are Ryuji Imada at 40 to 1 to win and Nick Watney at 50 to 1. Imada has not missed a cut this year in 7 events while logging 3 top-10’s. Imada is also a top ten putter averaging 1.72 putts per GIR and ranks 7th in birdie average at 4.04 a round. Watney is the defending Zurich champion and can repeat based on his long game stats. Watney ranks 29th off the tee at 289.9 yards and is 16th in par-5 birdie %, cashing in 48% of the time.
Looking at the matches, look for Cink (-125) to take down Zach Johnson and Steve Marino (-115) to defeat Carl Pettersson.
Cink has the edge on Johnson in scoring average by about 3/4 of a stroke per round, and while that does not sound very tough to overcome, an average tournament out of both finds Cink a solid 3 ahead at the end. The key here may be par-5 play. Johnson is 125th on Tour in par-5 birdie averageat 35.3%, in part due to his 186th rank in driving distance (268 yds). That will add up over four dayson a par-72 course with 4 par-5’s. Take Cink here.
Steve Marino has had quiet success in ’08 with no missed cuts in nine events with 6 top-25 finishes. He is ranked third in scoring average at 69.3 and has the tee block stats (10th in overall driving) to fare well at the TPC. Marino is the 9th rated All Around golferwith top-80 ranks in the allmajor stat categories, and ranks first in total birdies made on the year. Carl Pettersson has three top-25 finishes of late, but is only even-par overall during that stretch. The stats don’t bear out a win here for Pettersson either, with 140+ ranks in driving accuracy, total driving, and GIR%. Pettersson also has an over-par scoring average in the 4th round. Look for Marino to get it done in this one.
Picks: For the Win
Short: Jim Furyk 12 to 1 - it’s been a while
Middle: Steve Stricker 14 to 1 - highest ranked player in field
Long: Ryuji Imada 40 to 1 - consistency leading to a win?