Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Zurich Classic Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Harbour Town.
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2021 Zurich Classic: Field
80 Teams | Top 35 & Ties Make the Cut
First Tee Time: Thursday, April 22
Defending Champion: Jon Rahn & Ryan Palmer
There’s nothing like an exhibition match that actually comes with a giant payday. Welcome to the 2021 Zurich Classic.
The TOUR decided a few years back that, like the European Tour, they needed to get into the gimmick tournament business. I don’t blame them. There are almost 50 tournaments per year, breaking it up a bit in format seems quite sensible. Is this pairs competition the answer? Meh, it’s fine.
There are 80 two-man teams in the field, the top 35 and ties will make the cut after 36 holes. The 72-hole format will feature Four-Ball (best ball) during the first and third rounds and Foursomes (alternate shot) during the second and fourth rounds. Both winners will receive an invitation into the Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship, and they’ll earn 400 FedEx Cup points but will not get an automatic Masters invitation.
This event was postponed due to the pandemic stoppage a year ago, so this will be the first time it has been contested since 2019 and marks the fourth time the Zurich Classic has been a team tournament.
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer return as the defending champions, but as we’ve seen year-to-year, the pairs don’t often stay together for any significant length of time. Palmer won with Rahm in 2019, yet he also owns a T4 at this event with Jordan Spieth in 2017.
Rahm/Palmer along with Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay are the favorites in the field. They’re followed by Collin Morikawa/Matthew Wolff, Bubba Watson/Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith/Mark Leishman and Tony Finau/Cameron Champ. You’ll also find a few Champions Tour players and European Tour players like Thomas Pieters and Rasmus Højgaard scattered in the field. A win, even a team win, will earn both players a PGA TOUR card if they don’t have one already. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason Brooks Koepka always played in this event with his brother.
This is the first year that DraftKings is offering daily fantasy contests for the Zurich Classic. It’s a pretty simple scoring system. You still select six players inside the $50,000 salary cap, but you may only choose one player from each team. You’ll get the scoring for the entire team from that one player.
2021 Zurich Classic: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained
Strokes Gained: Putting
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Zurich Classic: Course
Course: TPC Louisiana
Greens: TifEagle Bermuda (New Greens)
2021 Zurich Classic: Past Winners
2019: Jon Rahm & Ryan Palmer -26
2018: Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy -22
2017: Jonas Blixt & Cam Smith -27
2016 Brian Stuard -15
2015: Justin Rose -22
2014: Seung-Yul Noh -19
2013: Billy Horschel -20
2021 Zurich Classic: Notes
This is actually one of the few tournaments where stats are difficult to utilize. Let me rephrase that. Stats are always difficult to utilize, if they weren’t you’d see a lot more people picking winners of golf events. No, what I mean is adding the team dynamic element into play throws all the stats out of whack. It’s like Match Play in that regard. At Match Play, some players don’t play a full complement of holes, and a player’s strategy up three holes or down three holes is significantly different.
At the 2021 Zurich Classic where it’s separated into two rounds of best ball and two rounds of alternate shot, a partner having an off round will absolutely sink any chance in the alternate shot rounds. That’s really where this tournament is won. These are PGA TOUR pros, not me, you and our two loser friends who play once a year in a scramble — the best ball portion is never really an issue for these guys.
Low Rounds in Zurich Classic History (Four Ball) -12
2017: Goosen/Van Aswegen & Kisner/Brown
2018: Glover/Reavie & Zhang/Dou
The format is actually more exciting after the order of the rounds for each style was swapped. In year one, back in 2017, having every team challenge -10 in the final round was sort of exciting, but it was really tough to actually gain much ground when every team was making eagles and birdies.
Having the alternate shot (Foursomes) format on Sunday makes things far more exciting. The squad leading after 54 holes has gone on to win two of the three years in the team format, including Rahm/Palmer in 2019.
Low Rounds in History (Foursomes) -7
But there were actually 54-hole co-leaders in 2019. Trey Mullinax and Scott Stallings went the opposite direction of Rahm and Palmer and fired off a five-over 77 on Sunday.
There’s always a huge amount of luck involved in picking a golf winner in a standard week. Now that player needs to rely on someone else, and you have to get lucky with them too. If Keegan Bradley’s regular putting stroke shows up in alternate shot, all those Branden Steele approaches to six feet may not be worth anything.
Since it’s a crapshoot, looking at the history and taking teams whose skill sets somewhat mirror each other may be the best angle to take. You don’t want a player who bombs it 325 yards off the tee paired with a short smacker who is relatively unaccustomed to hitting approaches from such different lengths and vice versa.
One other update from the course: TPC Louisiana has renovated the putting surfaces since the last tournament in 2019. They were MiniVerde Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa and velvet bentgrass but now the greens are comprised of TifEagle Bermuda.
Going back through the three years, here are some notable scores for pairs in the alternate shot (foursomes) format:
2019: Palmer/Rahm 65/69
2018: Bubba/Kuchar 67/74; Horschel/Piercy 73/67; Power Hearn 72/68; Dufner/Perez
2017: Spieth/Palmer 66/70; Blixt/Smith 67/68; Hoffman/Watney 67/69; Kisner/Brown 70/67
And, it wouldn’t be a week on the PGA TOUR if we weren’t at a Pete Dye-designed course. It’s the second Dye course in two weeks and the fourth in just over a month. Plus, the upcoming Travelers and PGA Championship are being hosted at Dye tracks, too.
Pete Dye Courses on the PGA TOUR
- TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship)
- Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)
- TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship)
- TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic)
- Austin Country Club (WGC Match Play)
- TPC Stadium Course at La Quinta (Two rounds at The American Express)
- Crooked Stick (2012/2016 BMW Championship)
- Whistling Straits (2015, 2010, 2005 PGA Championship)
- Kiawah Island (2012 PGA Championship)
2021 Zurich Classic Picks
Billy Horschel and Sam Burns ($10,500)
Horschel is the only player to win this event solo and on a team and comes in playing his best golf in a long time. And Burns? Well, one of the TOUR’s best drivers and putters for over a year has completely crapped out in both areas since the final round at Riviera. The irons have still been fine, however. If he can just play to his regular baseline and maybe get some help on the greens from Billy Ho, the former LSU Tiger may be able to get taken along for the ride.
Kevin Kisner & Scott Brown ($8,700)
Partners for both this event and in local cash games, no duo has played more golf together than this pair. And it’s translated into consistent success at this event. They lost in a playoff in 2017 and have not finished outside the Top 15 any of the three years of this format.
David Hearn &
Seamus Power ($6,700)
Editor’s note: Seamus Power has withdrawn from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after testing positive for COVID-19. Zack Sucher will now partner with David Hearn.
Why does this team work? I really have no clue. But like Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney, they just seem to play well together. They’re two-for-two in cuts made in this team event, and a made cut is all you’ll need from a squad near the bottom of the DraftKings pricing structure.
Brice Garnett & Scott Stallings $6,900
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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