2009 Zurich Classic Preview and Picks

Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Thurs. April 23 - Sun. April 26, 2009
TPC Louisiana - Avondale, LA
Golf Channel/CBS

by Matt of Predictem.com

The PGA heads to the New Orleans area for this week’s Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale. Manyof thetop stars are stillon traditional breaks at this time of year to prepare for the grind of the summer stretch, butsome of this year’s hottest players are in attendance, highlighted by Kenny Perry.Andres Romero is back to defend his ’08 title and several of theTour’s young guns are out to notch a statement win. Catch all the early action on the Golf Channel and switch to CBS for the weekend rounds.

The TPC Louisianasports a wideopen layoutthat favors the longer hitter and will measure 7,341 yards at par-72 forthe Championship. The course hasseen some changesin the last few years, sparked in part by damage from Katrina.Thetrack was shortened by almost 200 yards but the difficultyremains in the formof tricky greens over 70 bunkers.13-under was the winning totalfrom last year andthe course ranked 32out of 54in terms of scoring difficulty.

The final three holes make for a great finish withscoring opportunities at 16 and 18 with a very difficult test at the215 yard par-3, 17th. The 16th isa short par-4 at 348 yards and will give up short approach shots to anyone willing toattempt a drive over several fairway bunkers. 18should provide an exciting finish as areachablepar-5 that demands asolid approach to avoid the water. The greens aren’toverlyfast by Tour standards but they can be tough to read andconsistently sinkbirdies.

Each week, we takea look at the golf sportsbooks and highlighta few of the tournament favorites. We’ll break down their chances to win and make a short, middle and longshot odds pick. We’ll take a look at a couple of head to head matches and make some picks there as well. Here is a look at some potential contenders for the Zurich Classic with odds and lines courtesy of the book at Superbook.com.

Kenny Perry
12 to 1 for the outright win

Perry may still be trying to shake the playoff loss at the Masters, but is a favorite this week based on his very strong overall season thus far. Kenny has not missed a cut in 10 starts and leads the Tour with six top-10’s, including his win at the FBR Classic. On a stat sheet to die for, Perry ranks 10th in greens hit, 12th in total driving, 10th in scrambling and 1st in scoring average. Kenny also has plenty of length to take advantage of the Avondale layout and is as experienced as any in the field. Perry has feasted on these “weaker” field events in the past two years.

Nick Watney
15 to 1

Watney is one of the hottest players going right now, making nine of nine cuts and cashing eight top-25 checks. Watney has three top-10’s including his win at the Buick and hasn’t been outside the top-20 in his last four starts. Nick is the ’07 Zurich champ and has the perfect game for this type of course with an 8th ranked driver and the best par-5 birdie percentage. Watney is 6th in total birdies and 2nd in scoring average and thats good enough to make him our short odds pick this week.

Steve Stricker
15 to 1

Steve is quietly having a very good start to the ’09 season with seven top-25’s in nine starts including four top-10’s. Stricker is short off the tee, but long on accuracy, ranking 14th in greens hit, 18th in ballstriking and 2nd in scrambling. Stricker is has a top-10 birdie and scoring average and is currently 7th in putting average. Steve occupies our second pick slot for this week coming off the best Masters finish of his career.

Rory Sabbatini
25 to 1

Rory is a bit under the radar so far this season, but is on a good run in the last two weeks, finishing tied for 20th and 8th at the Masters and Verizon Heritage. Sabbatini has always had a solid overall game and is currently among the best putters on Tour, ranking 9th and 25th in average and putts per round. Sabbs is also in the top-25 in birdie average, a key reason why he has missed only one cut in nine starts this year.

Andres Romero
30 to 1

The defending champ from last year is a bit down the board at 30 to 1 after struggling some in the last few weeks. Romero’s last four starts have produced two missed cuts with a 46th and a 49th. Andres had his best finish at the Northern Trust when he ran 3rd and while he ranks 13th in driving distance, most of the other scoring stats are outside of the top-100. Romero’s scoring average has crept north of 72 and a big turnaround will be needed to repeat.

John Merrick
30 to 1

Merrick is our longshot pick this week on the strength his 7th place finish herein ’08 and his three top-10’s in ’09. John was the runner-up at the Hope earlier in the year and his 11th rank in driving distance will play well at TPC Louisiana. Merrick is 26th in total driving and 8th in total birdies on the year and should be in one of the final groups on Sunday.

Our Picks

Short Favorite - Nick Watney (15 to 1) Super start to ’09 plus tailor made game for the course is enough to pass on Kenny Perry.

Middle - Steve Stricker (15 to 1) Same odds as our short pick, but the styles of play couldn’t be any more different. Steve was 11th in ’07 and has been a birdie machine of late.

Long - John Merrick (30 to 1) This was a gut pick at first, but the stat sheet backs up the pick and the style should produce a lot of good looks.

Head to Head Matches (our pick)
*all matches are for entire tournament…check back with your favorite golf sportsbooks at the end of each round for updated daily matches.

David Toms (-115) v. Mike Weir (-115) (Toms)
Both players are solid putters, but Toms has the edge in fairways, scoring average and the all around stat category.

Charley Hoffman (-115) v. Charles Howell III (-115) (Hoffman)
There aren’t many areas on the stat sheet thatHoffman isn’t ahead on right now, but the clincher ishis 9th rank in birdies againstHowell’s 89th best mark.

Good Luck!!