Zurch Classic of New Orleans Predictions
When: April 26-29, 2018
Where: TPC Louisiana - Avondale, LA
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
by Evergreen, PGA Golf Analyst, Predictem.com
The Ryder Cup is one of the best golf events in the world. So incredible in fact, that it is a bit odd that team golf is not more prominantly featured at the professional level. The Zurich Classic stepped in last year and converted their historic singles format to a doubles event and saw a solid level of success. The doubles tournament is back again for 2018 and while the field in 2017 was a bit weak by Tour standards, this edition is significantly stronger. Eighty two-man teams will take to TPC Louisiana and play a best ball and alternate shot round before cutting the field to the top-35 for one more alternate shot round and a best ball finish. Justin Rose teams with Henrik Stenson to make the strongest team on paper but Ryan Palmer and Jordan Spieth are not far behind when talking about favorites. Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith are back to defend their titles with nearly two-thirds of the top-30 in the world in action. Given the scoring format and the oddness brought by doubles play in general, this is one of the most wide open events of the year. Even Champions Tour partners Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly are getting better odds than they would as individuals because an effective team can be greater than the sum of the two parts.
TPC Louisiana is a nice course to host this event. The 7,425 yard, par-72 track has a bit of everything and lends itself to low scores but also provides difficulty if a duo is a bit off. There is plenty of sand and water in play are the course winds through natural terrain. Two teams were able to card 66s last year during the alternate shot portion and two more found the way to 60 during best ball. The winning total hit 27-under and we should expect another fast scoring pace as best ball essentially lets these guys have a mulligan provided both players are hitting it fairly well. A bomber paired with an accurate player can dissect the course hole-by-hole, using their diverse talents to the greatest effect. Poor play by both partners will clearly lead to a missed cut but one player can shoulder the burden if the other is not going well and sometimes both players wind up carrying the weight at different points in the same round in those best ball scenarios. Alternate shot is a bit harder to survive is one player is struggling so look for the mistake-free teams to be in good position after day one.
Each week, we
take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values
on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head
matches as well. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Zurich Classic of
Picks to Win
Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14 to 1 odds to win)
The overall skill set of these two is somewhat polar opposite but perfectly complimentary. They will be able to attack with Bubbas length but also meter their aggression behind Kuchars no-nonsense style. Watson enters the week 8th in greens hit and Kuchar is above average there as well. Matt is a top-25 putter on Tour and could be very valuable if there are more than a few scrambling chances in alternate shot. Between the two, there is just one missed cut in 2018 with two wins (Watson) and their OWGR ranks added together is an impressive 39. They should contend and they have the gear to go very low in best ball so I would expect a first page finish if they dont mess up the alternate shot rounds. Watson is also a winner here as an individual so this team checks all the boxes.
Daniel Berger and Gary Woodland (30 to 1)
The best comined skill set on this team is their play off the tee. Berger is 20th in total driving on Tour with Woodland at 6th in driving distance and 14th in total off-the-tee metrics. Woodland has shown he can win when he is on (Phoenix) and Berger has developed one of the better putting games so there are no real weak spots on the team. The pair could be in a bit of trouble if Woodland is in a spot to save pars too often as he is outside the top-150 in scrambling but he is also 4th in greens hit so he really doesnt have to scramble too often. The pair has missed just four of twenty-four possible cuts on the year so their individual floors suggest they are in the mix if they can use their strength fully on the best ball days.
Tony Finau and Daniel Summerhays (66 to 1)
Finau is recently most famous for jamming his ankle back in place at the Masters before going on to a T10 at Augusta despite that nasty injury. Tony has two runner-up finishes this season and is one of the better potential partners in this field if Summerhays is able to let him loose. Finau is 2nd in driving distance and 10th in overall tee-to-green performance. He is top-10 in eagles and 12th in scoring despite a less than Tour average putter. Summerhays is the exact opposite as he has struggled in most tee-to-green categories this season but is statistically one of the best overall putters out there. He is 14th in overall putting average, 8th in one-putts and 5th in three-putt avoidance. His overall work on the greens adds up to the 2nd best total putting stat so that is covered for this team. If he can cobble enough good swings together in the alternate shot portion, this team has the specific stats to press the leaders but they both need to step up, perhaps in an area where they are not strong.
Head to Head Picks
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check Bovada Sportsbook (50% bonus/Credit cards work here) for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Sean OHair and Jimmy Walker v. Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney
(Pick to win: OHair and Walker)
The Hoffman/Watney side of this draw has less missed cuts than their opponents and that could be vital in limiting the bad side of thing in alternate shot but neither Hoffman or Watney has recorded a top-10 finish this season. OHair and Walker have been a bit more mercurial in terms of cuts made but both were in the top-10 just last week so they have a higher ceiling and some momentum to boot. Give a slight advantage to Hoffman/Watney in the tee-to-green game but OHair and Walker are the best two putters by far. Having both team members able to roll in the bird or do the dirty work for the save is critical in both scoring formats. Hoffman and Watney should be hard to get rid of as both are cagey vets but a team needs to score this week and this one should play out with OHair and Walker rolling in a few more birdie putts through the week.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Sergio Garcia v. Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan (Pick to win: Rahm and Bryan)
This is a bit of a trend-breaker as Bell/Garcia are the better team in most regards on paper. Bello may be the least known of the three Spaniards in this grouping but he may be the best pure iron player of the group and the most accurate overall. Garcia is special from tee-to-green but is riding a mini-streak of two straight missed cuts. Im taking Bryan and Rahm as both players are top-20 putters on Tour with Rahm bringing the #1 birdie rate into the week. Like the match above, I give the edge to Bello/Garcia in tee-to-green stats but Rahm and Bryan are so far ahead on the greens that they could run away with this if Bryan can manage a decent week off the tee. Rahm is so much longer than Bryan and it will be a big advantage in alternate shot if Rahm can be the muscle off the tee. Bryans GIR% should skyrocket with the shorter approaches and Rahm is then there to put that putter to good use. Regardless of who is doing what, Rahm/Bryan have a distinct advantage on the greens in both formats and Bello/Garcia will need vintage Sergio to suddenly show and both will have to putt well in their first time around TPC Louisiana.
Good luck and good golf!