PGA Tour Picks: Zurich Classic of New Orleans Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/23/2014
Well, I was right and wrong last week. Right in that a guy who doesn't bomb it of the tee would win the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island because that was usually the case. Wrong in that I believed Matt Kuchar, Mr. Consistent, would struggle a bit in the wake of a Masters hangover.
Instead, Kuchar shot a final-round 64 -- holing out from the bunker on the 72nd hole -- to finish at 11-under 273 to beat Luke Donald by a shot. Not surprised at all Kuchar won as he's always in contention it seems. It's hard to believe it was his first victory since last June's Memorial because you see his name on the leader boards nearly every week, including at Augusta.
While I didn't pick Kuchar to win, I thought Donald or Jim Furyk were set up to have great weeks. Obviously Donald did. He was the third-round leader and had two birdie chances to tie after Kuchar's chip in but missed both. It was his third second-place and fifth Top-3 finish at Hilton Head in the past six years. A European still hasn't won on the PGA Tour this year.
At least I hit on Donald at -110 for a Top-20 finish (yes, Top-20, not Top-10) as well as at 2/1 as the top finisher from Great Britain & Ireland and at -115 head-to-head over Zach Johnson. Also hit on Fuyrk at -115 for a Top-20 as he finished T7 as well as Furyk at +110 head-to-head over Spieth (T12). Finally, hit Charley Hoffman at +105 head-to-head over Kevin Na, who missed the cut. I left my winning pick for last because he was never a factor: Chris Stroud (40/1) finished T48, never breaking 70.
This week the PGA Tour moves to TPC Louisiana outside of New Orleans for the Zurich Classic, and it's not a strong field with big two big tournaments up next: the Wells Fargo in Charlotte and then the Players Championship. In fact, this is the final week for golfers to qualify for the Players if they already haven't. The Top 50 in the world rankings after this weekend and the Top 10 in the FedExCup standings earn automatic spots. So do this week's winner and next. Then the Players uses the rest of the FedEx Cup standings following this weekend to fill out any remaining spots.
Expect low scores and a first-time winner this week. Six of the past nine champions here were first-time winners, including future major champions Bubba Watson in 2011 and Jason Dufner in 2012. Last year, in his 60th PGA Tour start, Billy Horschel started Sunday two shots behind leader Lucas Glover but shot a final-round 64, including draining a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 18, to win by a shot. Don't rule out Horschel (33/1) repeating as five guys have done so here, although not for nearly 15 years. That said, no defending champion has followed up with a Top 10 since 2005. An American has won the event in eight of the past 10 years.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Zurich Classic of New Orleans Favorites
England's Justin Rose is the highest-ranked player in the field and not surprisingly the 12/1 favorite at Bovada. Rose has had Top-15 finishes in his past two trips to New Orleans. He has one Top-10 finish this year, coming in mid-March in the Tampa Bay event. He last played at the Masters with a T14.
Rickie Fowler is the top American hope odds-wise at 16/1. He has a best finish of 10th in three trips here but was T32 a year ago. Fowler is playing very well, finishing sixth in Houston and then T5 at the Masters.
Fellow American Keegan Bradley is 18/1, followed by Canada's Graham DeLaet (22/1) and American Ryan Palmer (25/1). I'm not on high Bradley. He has had a good season but missed the cut at the Masters and has done so each of the past two years in New Orleans. DeLaet is looking for his first PGA Tour win. He is way overdue with three runner-up finishes since the start of last year and two thirds. He was fourth here in 2012. Palmer shares the course record of 64 at TPC Louisiana set in 2012 when he finished fourth.
PGA Tour Picks: Zurich Classic of New Orleans Predictions
No Top-20 finish options this week at Bovada, so back to the Top-10s. I like Rose at +110, Fowler at +140, DeLaet at +200 and Kevin Stadler at +300. I'd probably drop money on both one stroke and a playoff as the winning margin, both at +250. Nine of the past 11 tournaments here have been decided by a shot or a playoff. Take Rose at 9/4 as the top European and Ernie Els at 11/4 as the top South African. He lost here in a playoff two years ago.
Heat-to-head, go with Fowler (-130) over Bradley (even), Els (-115) over Jerry Kelly (-115), DeLaet (-140) over Matt Every (+110) and Palmer (-130) over Hoffman (even).
If I follow 2014 trends I obviously can't pick a European to win this week. If I follow past trends here, I need to pick a guy who hasn't won yet. So my guy is DeLaet. His 12 Top-10 finishes since the start of 2013 are third overall on Tour. He struggles a bit with the putter but is third in GIR this season and is a terrific ballstriker. It's time for him to break through, and the quality of the field makes this week his best chance for a while.
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