This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS
Winner's Share: $1.069M each
FedEx Cup Points: 400 to each winner
Location: Avondale, La.
Course: TPC Louisiana
2020 champion: None
DraftKings added contests for the WGC-Match Play event a few years ago. The website recently added games for the LPGA. And now the latest entry into the DK golf stable is the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a team event featuring 80 two-man teams. There are many big names on hand. But since this is all new, let's get right to the format and the scoring.
The golfers will play the better ball – four-ball – in the first and third rounds and alternate shots – foursomes – in the second and fourth rounds. The Friday cut will be the top 33 teams and ties. Each golfer on a team will cost the same and accumulate the same number of DK points. You can select only one golfer per team – and it makes absolutely no difference which one. Other than that, the scoring is pretty standard. Not that we concern ourselves too much with FedExCup points, but if you're wondering why it says up top that the winners get 400 points apiece, that's because the winner of a tournament normally gets 500 and the runner-up 300.
The New Orleans Tour stop has actually been around since 1938, with many of the biggest names in golf having won there. But in a bid to raise sagging interest, the team format was instituted in 2017. There are three editions we can use as a guide, as last year's tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. The champions from 2019, Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer, are back. Rahm is the highest-ranked golfer in the field at No. 3. Some other pairings might make people of a certain age think of the famed rock super groups of the '60s: No. 4 Collin Morikawa is playing with Matthew Wolff, No. 6 Xander Schauffele is teaming with No. 10 Patrick Cantlay, Aussies Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman are joining forces, as are former Ryder Cup partners Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Rose won the tournament back in 2015 when it was a still an every-man-for-himself event. Smith won the inaugural team event in 2017 while paired with Jonas Blixt.
(Side note: Len talks a little LPGA in his weekly DraftKings Live video below, but then discusses the Zurich Classic)
Other teams of note are perennial contenders Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, Tony Finau and Cameron Champ, Viktor Hovland and former Oklahoma State teammate Kris Ventura, South African major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, and even Champions Tour players Woody Austin and Rocco Mediate. The Kisner-Brown tandem has done everything but win, losing in a playoff in 2017, carrying the lead into Sunday in 2018 and tying for fifth in 2019. Brown is far from a strong player most weeks, but it goes to show that this week, non-traditional factors can determine the champions.
TPC Louisiana is a Pete Dye design, and his courses have been coming up a lot on Tour in recent weeks. This tournament was a big-time birdie-fest even before the team format was instituted, with the Bermudagrass greens averaging 5,200 square feet. There's water on eight holes and there are more than 100 bunkers.
Smith-Blixt holds the 72-hole record with a 27-under-par 261, sharing it with Kisner-Brown, who lost in that 2017 playoff. Rahm-Palmer were right behind at 262 and also hold the alternate-shot record at 65. The best-ball record of 60 is held by five tandems, including Kisner-Brown. It's safe to say that strong iron play and quality putting will be imperative this week, so a good team should have at least one of each. Of course, two of each is better.
Weather-wise, there's more than a 50 percent chance of rain on Friday and Saturday, the two days in which the wind will be strongest, reaching the teens in terms of mph. Temperatures will be warming from around 70 on Thursday to near 80 on Sunday.
Fun New Orleans Tour stop factoids: As mentioned, the tournament dates to 1938, though there was a 10-year hiatus from 1948 to 1957. It's been played every year since with such notable champions as Picard, Demaret, Nelson, Casper, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Watson, Barber, Ballesteros, Woosnam, Crenshaw, Peete, Westwood and Singh.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Louisiana
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie-or-Better Percentage
2020 - None
2019 - Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer
2018 - Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy
2017 - Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith
2016 - Brian Stuard
2015 - Justin Rose
2014 - Seung-yul Noh
2013 - Billy Horschel
2012 - Jason Dufner
2011 - Bubba Watson
Smith-Blixt shot 27-under, Horschel-Piercy shot 22-under and Rahm-Palmer shot 26-under, showing the absolute necessity to get on the green in regulation and make putts. But it's more than just the golf. As we see in the Ryder Cup, team chemistry is also imperative. Many of the guys on Tour are friends off the course, so it's natural for them to connect this week. But there were also golfers searching for partners, and there are some curious pairings, such as Scott Piercy and Akshay Bhatia. Horschel has won this tournament both solo and as part of a pair, so if there's a horse for this course, he would seem to be the guy. Golfodds.com put the over/under on the winning score at 263.5 – 24.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm-Ryan Palmer - $11,500 (8-1)
Two year ago, this pairing struck us as odd: one young, one old; one from Spain, one from Texas. But obviously there's great harmony here. Surprisingly, it is Palmer with the higher ranking in birdie-or-better percentage, at fifth. Rahm is not too far back at 20th.
Cameron Smith-Marc Leishman - $11,100 (12-1)
Smith won his maiden Tour event here in 2017 and has been developing into a star ever since. Both Aussies are coming off top-10s at the Masters, and Smith added another last week at Harbour Town. The 27-year-old Smith is ranked 11th in BOB percentage and 17th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Billy Horschel-Sam Burns $10,500 (20-1)
Horschel clearly knows how to play TPC Louisiana and is on form following his Match Play win. Burns has been a train wreck since faltering on Sunday at Riviera, but a veteran partner might be just what the uber-talented youngster needs to regain his form.
Tier 2 Values
Viktor Hovland-Kris Ventura - $9,700 (35-1)
They played college golf together at Oklahoma State, where Ventura was the veteran, three years older than Hovland. But on Tour, Hovland is the golfer now ranked in the top 20 while Ventura has struggled and is ranked 248th. Hovland is ranked sixth in birdie or better and Ventura's big strength is putting – he's ranked sixth on Tour.
Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson - $9,500 (30-1)
It should be fun watching these two major champions pair up again – perhaps for the final time – even if they have been struggling for a while, especially the 45-year-old Stenson. But they both showed signs at the Masters – Rose led for much of the tournament and finished seventh. Stenson made his first cut since January and finished tied for 38th, and he would've fared far better if not for a closing 76. This team may personify the whole "being greater than the sum of its parts."
Joel Dahmen-Lanto Griffin - $9,000 (40-1)
These two guys, the 33-year-old Dahmen and the 32-year-old Griffin, probably first crossed paths many years ago on the West Coast, as Dahmen is from the state of Washington and Griffin from northern California. The are both ranked in the 60s in BOB percentage, and Griffin is 22nd in putting.
Tier 3 Values
Doug Ghim-Justin Suh - $8,100 (60-1)
Watch out for this team with the sneaky low odds. Why is that? Because these guys might be good as a pair. Ghim is having a breakthrough season and is ranked 13th on Tour in SG: Approach. Suh has been struggling to get into tournaments and just reached enough rounds to qualify in all the stats categories. Get this: He is ranked second on Tour in SG; Putting.
Maverick McNealy-Joseph Bramlett - $7,900 (80-1)
We've got a couple Stanford guys here, albeit eight years apart. Bramlett, 33, is the big hitter who is also ranked 35th in greens in regulation. McNealy, 25, is having a strong season and is ranked 56th in BOB percentage.
Matthew NeSmith-Chase Seiffert - $7,500 (80-1)
We picked both these guys last week when they were in the $6,000s for the RBC Heritage, and they both paid off with made cuts. NeSmith is ranked second in greens in regulation and seventh in SG: Approach, while Seiffert is a respectable 54th and 50th in the same departments. There should be enough here to make the cut, but someone is going have to make a bunch of putts if the pair hopes for a high finish.
Tom Hoge-Beau Hossler - $7,000 (125-1)
Hoge is having a good season, with top-25s in three of his past four starts, including THE PLAYERS. Hossler has the potential to be lights-out with his putter, though his ranking of 77th this year is far behind the past three years of 24th-10th-6th. Hoge finished 24th, 10th and 34th in the first three editions of this event, though he was teamed then with J.J. Henry. This will be Hossler's Zurich debut.
Robert Streb-Troy Merritt - $6,700 (150-1)
These two played together in 2017 and 2019 and finished top-25 both times, at T24 and then T22. Streb won The RSM Classic out of nowhere back in the fall and has done little since. Merritt has done nothing all season. But put them together and – voila! – you get what could be fearsome tandem. Or at least one that should make the cut.
David Hearn-Zach Sucher - $6,700 (150-1)
Hearn was originally paired with Seamus Power, but Power withdrew Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19, so Sucher stepped in. Hearn is still listed on the DK board, but Sucher obviously is not. So there is no option here – if you play this team, you must go with Hearn. And why not? The Canadian has had success in this tournament with multiple partners, so we're sticking with him. In 2017, he teamed with fellow Canuck Graham DeLaet for a top-25. Then Hearn and Power got together and tied for 10th in 2018 and for fifth in 2019. Hearn wasn't even a good putter those three years but now he's currently tied for 15th on Tour.