After a few weeks on tough courses with high scores, the PGA Tour heads to the Bayou for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans which usually turns into a birdie-fest resulting in plenty of excitement and red numbers. The format and course have also lent themselves to breakthrough winners as six of the last nine champions were claiming their first Tour win when they hoisted the trophy on Sunday. If history holds, expect a great weekend of golf with plenty of drama since in the end the Zurich Classic has been decided by either a single stroke or in extra holes nine of the 11 years.
In a saga of finally realizing potential after several near misses, Matt Kuchar finally got the bounce he needed knocking in a bunker shot to win last week’s RBC Heritage and claim his first win of the season. It had been a season of good tournaments and close calls for Kuch before getting the big win and the tartan jacket last week. If you’re looking for a challenge, check out our 50-member group on Yahoo! where you can complete with some great fantasy golf owners (details to join here). This week, the Onalaska Cowboys took the win for the week at the Heritage with 210 points to claim two wins in the last three weeks after tying for the best score at the Shell Houston Open. “Put it in the Hole” maintained the lead for the segment and the season with a solid, 192-point week.
Here are my picks for this week at TPC New Orleans:
Rickie Fowler: Fowler is coming off a top five finish at the Masters following a solo-sixth at the Shell Houston Open the week before. He took last week off but will tee it up at TPC New Orleans for the fourth straight year. He’s made the cut each time he’s played here with his best finish a t10 in 2012. Fowler sets up for a nice week and could finish his comeback with a win this week.
Patrick Reed: Reed has had a quiet few weeks since winning at Doral earlier this season. He missed the cut at Augusta but did play the weekend at the Heritage finishing t48. When Reed is on his game, he is among the best in the world, so roster him with confidence this week on a shallow A-List. He missed the cut here last year but did crack the top-25 two years ago.
Graham DeLaet: If the winner this week is a first-time breakthrough, DeLaet is among the names I think is most due. He didn’t make the cut at The Masters but had four straight top-35′s before heading to Augusta where he was playing for the first time. He had a run of four straight top-ten’s early this season and had made seven straight cuts before The Masters. I think he’ll bounce back with a strong week in the Big Easy this week.
Fredrik Jacobson: Jacobson is quietly playing extremely consistent golf this season and has been in the top-20 in his last five tournaments. Jacobson hasn’t played since the Shell Houston Open where he closed with a 69 and finished t19.
Jason Kokrak: Another player with breakthrough potential is Kokrak who finished t12 last week in Hilton Head. It was a nice bounceback for him after missing the cut in Houston. In his last six starts, that cut was the only one he has missed while putting up three top-15 finishes. Last season, Kokrak made the cut for the second straight year at the Zurich finishing t59.
Justin Rose: Rose is a safer more established play than the higher risk options I have on my B-List, so I’ll add him to try to prevent a total collapse in this spot. He is coming off a t14 at the Masters and is the highest ranked player in the field. He struggled at Bay Hill, but has put together a solid season outside of that missed cut.
Russell Knox: Knox has made five straight cuts and is coming off his second top ten in that span after finishing t9 at the RBC Heritage. Knox also fits the profile of a young player getting his first win at the event and has looked strong in this his rookie year on tour.
John Senden: Senden is my insurance in case Knox struggles as the veteran Aussie comes in playing well after notching a win earlier this season at the Valspar Championship. That win is part of his run of six straight made cuts including a t8 two weeks ago in Augusta. Senden’s a safe pick to be around through the weekend and could easily be on the leaderboard come Sunday.