After making the cut at the Masters, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang has confirmed he has accepted a sponsor’s exemption and will play in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which starts on Thursday.
Guan, who spent a month in New Orleans practising for a U.S. Open qualifier last year, will be a neat sideshow when he tees it up in a field that lacks any great depth outside of 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley, 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson and defending New Orleans champion Jason Dufner.
World No.3 Justin Rose is the BETDAQ favourite to win over four rounds at TCP Louisiana, which is a Pete Dye designed course that plays 7,425 yards. The par-72 boasts four par 5s and par 3s, with 10 par 4s.
Dufner and Ernie Els tied at 19-under-par last year, before the American won in a playoff. The low scoring underlines that it is not a difficult track by any means. In fact, 13-under has been the worst score by any winner since 2005 and it was ranked 39th of the 52 PGA courses in difficulty last year.
Wayward driving is not punished as much as other Dye-designed tracks like Harbour Town, for example. Good iron play is more prevalent than being long off the tee.
The weather looks good for most of the week, although winds could shift every day, and as we saw at Harbour Town last week, that can play havoc. There’s a 30% chance of rain on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, but it figures to be warm in Cajun country.
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans is usually a great golf tournament for trading, as eight of the last 10 renewals have been decided by one shot or in a playoff.
It has also been a tournament for first-time winners. Nick Watney and Dufner picked up their first Tour wins here, which demonstrates that some high-class players can use this as a stepping stone to greater things.
Course form is always a reliable barometer. Last year, Dufner (pictured) provided a dream result for trend backers, as he gained the win on the back of previous course form which read: T9-T7-T3. Dufner does not have a top-10 finish this season and this will be the first time he has attempted to defend a title. There is no reason to think he won’t do well again on a course he clearly favours, but the added pressure of defending a title makes him look a little short at around 17.5.
Rose is on an incredible run of 15 straight top 25 finishes on the PGA and European tour. He finished in the top 10 here last year but missed the cut twice in five tries at TPC Louisiana and while his ball striking was superb at Augusta, he appears to be struggling a little with the putter. If he sorts that out, he will be a danger to all. He is the elite player in the field this week and we could not put off those backing him at around 14.0 with BETDAQ.
Those two are paired in a Tournament Match Bet – and given Dufner’s record on this track, it is hard to ignore his claims. He is available to back at 1.91. Rose is on offer at 1.76.
But here are out quartet who are expected to give the top two in the market a strong challenge:
Keegan Bradley @ 22.0
This could be a good week for the New England native. Bradley has five top 10’s in his 10 starts on tour this year and it could have been five in a row had it not been for a miserable 82 in the third round of the Masters. He bounced back with a final-round 69 which dropped him to T54, but he should make the most of the par 5s, where he ranks 7th in birdies or better, and he’s virtually flawless when putting from inside 5ft (making 97.4% of his putts). While his form in two visits here reads Cut-T26, he’s the current form horse to ride.
Thorbjorn Oleson @ 33.0
The 23-year-old Dane has three top 20s in four appearances in the States this season and his 68-68 finish at Augusta marked him down as a winner-in-waiting. That T6 result was no flash in the pan – he’d finished ninth at the British Open last year. Oleson is ranked ninth on the European Tour and his only win came in April last year, when capturing the Sicilian Open. He finished seventh at this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Cameron Tringale @ 47.0
If you follow trends, Tringale has a similar profile to last year’s winner, having produced previous ascending finishes of T28-T18-T7 in his last three visits to the course. While he missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open on his last start, he had shown up well before that at Tampa Bay, Bay Hill and at the Shell Houston Open, with respective finishes of 3-T27-T16. He has yet to win on the PGA Tour but is 10th in greens in regulation and is a commendable 49th in driving accuracy. If his putter is as hot as the gumbo on Bourbon Street, he can pile up birdies in a hurry.
Scott Piercy @ 64.0
Piercy is not going to be on many radars but easy, low-scoring courses plays to the Las Vegas native’s strength. He had been placed in the top 20 four times before finishing T12 here last year, the first time in three years he’d made the cut. He’s showing a similar level of form again, with a good third at the Phoenix Open just one of four top 15 finishes this season. The par 5s play to his strengths, he’s both 19th in driving distance and birdie average, and he has had enough experience of this course to know its pitfalls by now.
Tournament Match Bets
Rickie Fowler to beat Nick Watney
Fowler missed last week in South Carolina after recovering from his exertions at Augusta, where he was both brilliant and frustrating. One of the best young ball-strikers around, he made plenty of birdies at The Masters, but also racked up four double bogeys and a triple bogey. He tied for 10th on his last trip to TCP Louisiana and the promising 24-year-old should contend again. Watney recorded a T13 at Augusta on his last outing and won this tournament in 2007, but his recent record here since reads T42-Cut-T20-Cut.
Fredrik Jacobson to beat Charley Hoffman
Hoffman is going to be over-bet due to his last three Tour finishes of T20, T3 and T6. He was in great shape in the Heritage last weekend but a windy final round saw him blown off course. The reason for opposing him is course form – although he has made five of six cuts, he’s only once broken the top 25. Jacobson, with three top 10s from eight starts this season, has not played here since missing the cut in 2008, but his short game is in great nick at present.
Charles Howell III to beat Ernie Els
The Big Easy to win in the Big Easy? It’s every headline writer’s dream. The South African came close to winning this tournament last year and his T13 at Augusta showed he can still turn it on when required. However, Howell III knows his way around this track. He was runner-up in 2006 and 2009, and has been in great form this season, posting -11 (T10) at the Shell Houston Open, -17 (T3) at the Sony Open, -25 (T2) at the Humana Challenge and -9 (T12) at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Els will need more than a little voodoo to beat him.
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