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This week sees the return of the team format at the Zurich Classic. The field consists of 160 players (or 80 two-man teams) and this year will mark the fourth year the event has been contested in this format — the first year was 2017. With 80 teams in the field, the cut will still take place after Friday, with the top 33 teams (plus ties) making the weekend. In 2019, 37 teams made the weekend here.
The format will lend itself to lots of volatility since Thursday and Saturday will have teams competing in best ball format — each player will play a ball and the best score will be taken on each hole — while Friday and Sunday will have teams competing in alternate shot format — teams play one ball per hole, alternating turns. As you can guess, the scores on best ball tend to be quite a bit better than in alternate shot. The defending champions of this event (from 2019) are Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer, and they are in the field again with the likes of Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa/Matthew Wolff and Tony Finau/Cameron Champ.
TPC Louisiana — Avondale, Louisiana
Par 72 -7,300-7400 yards depending on setup
TPC Louisiana is a Pete Dye-designed course that carries a mixed bag of hole designs but does allow for some really low scoring if the weather cooperates. In 2015 — one of the final years it was a regular stroke-play event — Justin Rose ended up winning with a final score of -22, and most winning scores here were in the high teens or better during stroke play. One of the main reasons the scoring is so low here is the par 5’s all rate as extremely great birdie opportunities. Only the par-5 18th hole comes in at over 580 yards in length. For most players, at least three of these longer holes are reachable in two shots. There are also some extremely short par 4’s on TPC Louisiana, with four of the par 4’s coming in at under 400 yards — including the driveable 16th, which could play a role down the stretch.
While the course does have some water and quite a few bunkers on it, accuracy isn’t a huge factor here due to the lack of rough and larger fairways. Driving Accuracy stats here are generally higher than the TOUR average, as are GIR%’s since the Bermuda greens are typically easier to hold and don’t play extra firm. Putting stats are also slightly elevated here, and the last four winners of this event — before it turned into a team event — all gained +4.2 strokes or more putting for the week. This venue typically sees a larger than average number of birdie putts holed from 20 feet and in, per Fantasy National. Good putters like Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt have dominated at this event up to this point, and you should give extra weight to teams here who you think can have monster weeks on the greens.
2021 Weather outlook: As you would expect at this time of year in Louisiana, potential for rain is in the forecast. The first day looks sunny, with highs in the low 70’s and winds topping out in the 10-12mph region. Friday could be a little tricky with chances of rain climbing into the 40-50% range and bringing gusts closer to 15-20mph. The wind will rise in Friday afternoon, so the later tee times could see more wind. There’s a chance we see similar weather on Saturday, with Sunday set for sunny skies and highs in the upper 70’s. Overall, any early rain is likely to soften the course and make the greens easier to hold, which could only make scoring easier for the players on the weekend.
Last Five winners
2019—Jon Rahm/Ryan Palmer 26-under (over Sergio Garcia/Tommy Fleetwood -21)
2018—Billy Horschel/Scott Piercy 22-under (over Jason Dufner/Pat Perez -21)
2017—Cameron Smith/Jonas Blixt 27-under (over Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown playoff)
2016—Brian Stuard—2016 (non-team)
2015—Justin Rose—2015 (non-team)
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Harold Varner III/Branden Grace +2800 and $9,600
- Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson +3300 and $9,500
- Kristoffer Ventura/Viktor Hovland +3300 and $9,700
- Justin Suh/Doug Ghim +5000 and $8,100
- Wyndham Clark/Erik Van Rooyen +5500 and $8,200
- Charley Hoffman/Nick Watney +5000 and $8,400
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown ($8,700): Kisner and Brown have played in this event together in each of the three years it’s been a team event. The veteran duo lost in a playoff here in the first year (2017) and finished T5 here in 2019. They’re clearly enamored with the format and are the lead course horses for this week.
2. Kevin Tway/Kelly Kraft ($6,500): Kraft and Tway don’t jump off the page in terms of recent form or career accomplishments — although Tway has a win from back in 2018 — but they’ve done well as a duo at the Zurich. They finished T3 here in 2017 (with a final round 61) and were also T13 at this event in 2019.
3. Billy Horschel/Sam Burns ($10,500): Horschel is definitely carrying this group in terms of experience since the veteran won at TPC Louisiana (the first of his career) back in 2013 when it was a regular stroke-play event. He also won the team event here in 2018 with Scott Piercy. Burns has played here each of the past two years (MC both times) but carries much better form into this year’s version.
1. Charley Hoffman ($8,400; T18-second): Hoffman added another solid finish to his recent run last week. The veteran landed a T18 at Hilton Head to a solo second-place finish at Valero and now leads this field in SG: Total over the last six events. Paired with the out-of-form Nick Watney here, he could carry his team to a decent finish.
2. Cameron Smith ($11,100; T9-T10): Smith had a disastrous Saturday at Hilton Head, but he rallied on Sunday to post a T9 finish — his second top-10 finish in a row. A winner here in 2017 with the currently MIA Jonas Blixt, Smith is in a power pairing this year with Marc Leishman. Their team should be a popular target in DFS.
3. Chris Kirk ($10,100; T7-T6): Kirk continues to play well and also landed his second top 10 in row last week at Hilton Head when he rallied on Sunday for a T6. He’s ninth in SG: TTG stats over the last 50 rounds and is paired with the hot-putting Brendon Todd this week (see below for more).
4. Lucas Glover ($8,800; T33-T4): Glover has played very consistent golf of late and now ranks third in SG: Total stats over the last six events. He gained everywhere but around the greens last week and ranks 20th in recent SG: TTG stats in this field. He’s paired with Chez Reavie here.
5. Matt Wallace ($8,600; T18-T34): Wallace has put together a few big weeks in row now and was in contention again last week before a bad finish dropped him back to T18. He gained +4.5 ball-striking alone last week at Hilton Head and is paired with a solid putter in Graeme McDowell, who has experience playing in this format from Ryder Cups of past.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman a nice upper-tier duo
This week is obviously fraught with a lot of unknowns, but targeting two countrymen who are both playing solid golf seems like a good idea in this format. Smith ($11,100) now has top-10 finishes in his last two starts, and Leishman ($11,100) was able to come alive at Augusta again, posting a T5 finish there after a T13 in November. Smith is a former winner here from 2017, too. With both Australians playing well, they make for a sensible pay-up squad. Some potential value down below includes the likes of Roberto Castro/Cameron Tringale ($8,000), who both have good course history and form, and Keith Mitchell/Brandt Snedeker ($7,400) who are also coming in with some momentum from the Valero.
Tournaments: Target Graeme McDowell and Matt Wallace for sneaky upside
We know Wallace ($8,600) is playing well, as the Englishman enters the tournament coming off another solid week at Hilton Head where he was in the top 10 until late Sunday. He gained +4.5 strokes ball-striking alone last week and should pair well here with the elite putting of McDowell, who finished T22 here in 2018 with Ian Poulter. These two are priced cheaply for how well Wallace is playing, and they have the potential to gel well with both having roots on the Euro Tour. A couple of lower-priced teams who could be worth mixing in your GPP pools this week include the likes of Peter Uihlein/Richy Werenski ($7,100-see below) and David Hearn/
Seamus Power ($6,700), who have finished T5 and T10 here the past two seasons.
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.
MY PICK: Chris Kirk (Brendon Todd) ($10,100)
This event is all about sinking putts and posting low scores, so I like the fact this pairing brings together two of the stronger putters in the game. Kirk is playing great golf right now and ranks ninth in this field in both SG: TTG stats and DKFP gained (per round) over the last 50 rounds. He’ll be playing the Zurich team event for the fourth year in a row but enters this season with his best form in quite some time. He finished T5 here in 2016, so don’t be too disparaged by his lack of success in the team format.
Todd and Kirk actually played together here in 2017 (they missed the cut), but Todd has also reinvented himself since then, as the three-time TOUR winner remains one of the best putters on TOUR, ranking first in SG: Putting stats in this field over most large and small samples. With both playing consistent golf right now, banking on them for a big week here in DFS makes sense considering the styles of teams we’ve seen have success here in the past.
MY SLEEPER: Peter Uihlein (Richy Werenski) ($7,100)
Neither of these players jump off the page in terms of name recognition, but they make for an interesting duo as we head down the salary list and look for potential upside plays. Uihlein has been playing his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour of late and grabbed a win last week at the MGM Resorts Championship. The American has been in solid form of late, also posting a T22 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship last month and a second-place finish at another Korn Ferry event around that time, as well.
Uihlein is typically a strong putter and should work well with Werenski, who often comes alive at these weaker-field events. Werenski is a veteran of this event (he’ll be playing for the third time) but hasn’t found success with different partners. This new group has lots of GPP appeal though — especially given the form of Uihlein — and makes sense as one to target for your big-field lineups at just $7.1K on DraftKings this week.
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