I think the Zurich Classic of New Orleans was a pretty big success with its new two-man team format, and I'm quite certain that the tournament will stick with that going forward. It really did seem like the players were more engaged while also having fun playing with a friend or countryman. Many players said they chose friends on the Tour rather than research whose game best complemented their own. Here's hoping the Tour allows more creativity with format changes at other events.
The Zurich Classic ended Monday because of darkness on Sunday, and Cameron Smith rolled in a short birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to clinch the win for himself and Jonas Blixt over Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown. Both teams had combined for pars on the first three playoff holes. Blixt and Smith started their final round with a four-shot lead but Kisner had three chip-ins, including a 35-yard eagle on the 72nd hole, to force the playoff. But there's no question that Blixt and Smith deserved to win as they didn't have a single bogey all week. It was the first career win for Smith, who will now get to compete in the Players Championship and PGA Championship, among others. It was Blixt's first win since 2013.
A couple of favored teams missed the cut -- Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, and Masters runner-up Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. I liked the South African duo of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen to win at +1400. They were T24 at 15-under, 12 shots behind the winners. I thought bombers Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes would contend, and they did with a T5 at 19 under.
This week the Tour heads to North Carolina for the Wells Fargo Championship. This event debuted on Tour in 2003 and had been held at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. But this year's PGA Championship is being held there, so the event moves for one year to Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, about four hours east. The players have been raving about the course, which is ranked No. 100 on Golf Digest's latest America's Greatest Courses. Unfortunately, that doesn't help me much in terms of handicapping because no previous Tour events have been held there. The club, opened in 2000, is private, and the only notable event played at Eagle Point was the 2011 AJGA Wyndham Cup, but no player in this week's field participated in that event.
Thus it might not matter that the defending tournament champion is American James Hahn. He was one of the most unlikely champions last season because he entered the Wells Fargo having missed eight straight cuts. Hahn beat Roberto Castro with a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title. If Hahn hadn't three-putted the 72 nd hole, there wouldn't have been a playoff. Castro, playing in the final group behind Hahn, made par to force a playoff. No player has repeated here and the only two-time winner is Rory McIlroy.
Golf Odds: Wells Fargo Championship Favorites
At Bovada , world No. 1 Dustin Johnson is the heavy +450 favorite. This is DJ's first event since he supposedly fell down some stairs in his rental house at Augusta National. He warmed up for his first round and went to the tee but opted to withdraw with back troubles. So he technically enters on a three-tournament winning streak.
Young Spaniard Jon Rahm is +1200. Rahm hasn't played since he was T27 at the Masters. Only three times has this event not been won by an American and two of those were by McIlroy.
The favorites are rounded out by Aussie Adam Scott, England's Paul Casey (both +1800) and American Phil Mickelson (+2000). Lefty hasn't missed a cut yet this year and was T22 at the Masters. He was runner-up at this event in 2010. Casey was sixth at Augusta. Scott was ninth. None have played since.
Golf Odds: Wells Fargo Championship Picks
I'm largely flying blind here with it being the first time this course is hosting a PGA Tour event. Go with Johnson at -225 for a Top 10 although he could be a tad rusty. Also like Mickelson (+200) and Webb Simpson (+330) as they usually played well at the Wells Fargo. Simpson is a North Carolina native and member of Eagle Point.
Head-to-head, go Patrick Reed (-150) over Alexander Noren (+115), Bud Cauley (-125) over Smith (-105), Simpson (-110) over Wesley Bryan (-120), Mickelson (-105) over Kisner (-125), and Bill Haas (-120) over Daniel Berger (-110).
My winner is another North Carolina guy in William McGirt at +4000. He's working on three straight T25 finishes and was T3 at Harbour Town a couple of weeks ago. McGirt is third on the PGA Tour in fairways hit. You can also get McGirt at -115 against Oosthuizen (-115) and +330 for a Top 10.
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