We had another first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season Sunday at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio as Kevin Chappell brought a one-shot lead into the final round and held on for once. He made an eight-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to beat Brooks Koepka by a shot. Chappell had a pretty memorable post-victory celebration - I recommend checking it out.
The 30-year-old Chappell was arguably the best player on Tour at least age 30 without a victory. He had finished second six times and third three in 179 previous PGA Tour events. Chappell had been 0-for-3 previously when leading after 54 holes in a tournament. He was only the 10th player to convert a 54-hole lead/co-lead this season in 23 events. Chappell jumped from 113th to 21st in the FedEx Cup standings and from 19th to fifth on the U.S. points table for this year's Presidents Cup team. Koepka was three groups ahead of Chappell on Sunday and birdied the par-5 18th to pull into a tie for first briefly. Koepka admitted his second-round 74 was the killer.
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I did get Chappell at even for a head-to-head over Brendan Steele. I don't usually recommend defending champions but liked Charley Hoffman to repeat because he has such a good history at TPC San Antonio. Hoffman was T40. I did get Ryan Palmer at +275 for a Top 10 and a few other head-to-head props.
So now the PGA Tour heads to the TPC Louisiana, a par-72 measuring 7,425 yards for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. I had forgotten that this tournament announced a format change last winter. As I'm sure you know, the PGA Tour's fan base skews quite old. So the Tour - and the European Tour - is very open to trying new things to get more eyeballs and luring young fans. The opposite of anything Augusta National does, basically.
The Zurich Classic is now a two-man team event like you might see in the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. This tournament isn't in a great spot on the schedule a couple weeks after the Masters and it wanted to drum up some buzz. Looking at the quality of the field compared to past year, it appears to have worked as 25 of the world's Top 50 are set to play. It's the first official Tour event to mix alternate-shot (foursomes) and best-ball (four-ball) formats; the 80 two-man teams will play alternate shot in the first and third rounds and best-ball in the second and fourth.
It's also the first time two-man teams have been used in an official PGA Tour event since the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship. That only used best ball. There's a cut to the low 35 teams and ties after 36 holes. In case of a tie after 72 holes, there will be a sudden-death playoff using the best-ball format. The winning team gets all the spoils an individual would, such as a two-year exemption, spot in the Players Championship and PGA Championship, etc. The only difference is no world golf rankings points will be at stake. A lot of guys are playing with their buddies or countrymen; some of these pairings you might see later this year at the Presidents Cup.
For what it's worth, the defending champion is Brian Stuard, who won a three-man playoff on Monday after rain shortened the tournament to 54 holes. It was Stuard's first PGA Tour win and he didn't have a single bogey. Stuard is playing this week with Chris Stroud.
Golf Odds: Zurich Classic of New Orleans Favorites
The pairings of Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson and Jason Day/Rickie Fowler are the +600 favorites. Rose comes off his near-miss at the Masters and won this tournament in 2015. Stenson is in a puzzling funk with three straight missed cuts. Those two went 3-0 together at the 2014 Ryder Cup, including setting an event record with 12 birdies in a four-balls match.
Day has struggled a bit his past three tournaments, but he was dealing with his mother having cancer surgery. She's apparently much better now. Day was Top 5 at this tournament the past two years. Fowler was 20th here in 2016.
Jordan Spieth/Palmer (+1000), Daniel Berger/Thomas Pieters (+1400) and Branden Grace/Louis Oosthuizen (+1400) round out the favorites. Spieth wasn't planning on playing here but decided to play with his Texas buddy Palmer with the format change.
Golf Odds: Zurich Classic of New Orleans Picks
As of now, no props available on this tournament - I doubt there will be many because of the unique format. Should be some Top 10s, though. I'm tempted to bet on Bubba Watson/JB Holmes at +2200 because they have to be the biggest-hitting duo out there. Bubba won here in 2011. Holmes last played the event in 2014.
But let's go with the South African duo of Grace and Oosthuizen to win. They enjoy playing together and were 4-0 as a duo at the 2015 Presidents Cup in Korea. It's the first time these two are playing this tournament.
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