Zurich Classic guide
Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 24/04/13 8:26pm
After American players bagged the first 14 PGA Tour titles of the season, the Euros and internationals will be looking to make it a fourth win in a row in Louisiana this week.
Scotland's Martin Laird broke the home stranglehold by taking the title in Houston, Adam Scott won a rest-of-the-world play-off to beat Angel Cabrera in The Masters and Graeme McDowell continued the mini-streak with victory at Hilton Head on Sunday.
Recent history points to an American triumph this week at TPC Louisiana however as seven of the last eight winners of this tournament have flown the Stars and Stripes.
TPC Louisiana has staged the event since 2005 although in 2006 it had to be switched to previous host English Turn following damage to the course caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Only six of the world's top 25 are present while the field also includes 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Tianlang Guan, who made the cut at Augusta.
TPC Louisiana is a low-lying Pete Dye creation built among wetlands and swamps close to the Mississippi River. There is plenty of water to avoid, while the Bermudagrass greens are traditionally fast. Par is 72 and the course measures 7,425 yards. Over 100 bunkers on the course make this a strategic test.
The forecast suggests sunny weather around the 80 degree mark although with a chance of isolated thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday. Winds are set to be fairly modest at 9-11mph. The biggest chance of rain comes on Thursday (50%).
Last year - Jason Dufner
Dufner ended his wait for a first PGA Tour title when, on his 164th start, he defeated Ernie Els on the second hole of a sudden-death play-off. Dufner equalled the tournament record of 19-under by shooting 67-65-67-70 although it could have been yet another near miss had Els not missed a six-foot putt at the first extra hole. The victory moved Dufner into the world's top 20 for the first time.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Justin Rose (12/1): From tee-to-green Rose played well enough to win The Masters but he simply couldn't buy a putt and faded away to tied 25th. That disappointment followed on from a run of 2-8-4 on the Florida Swing while he was also runner-up in Abu Dhabi on his 2013 debut. Rose has played in this tournament four times and missed the cut twice. However, a 10th place last year when he shot 13-under over the last 54 holes offers plenty of encouragement.
Jason Dufner (14/1): It didn't come as a shock that Dufner made this tournament the scene of his first PGA Tour success. Prior to his play-off victory over Ernie Els 12 months ago, the American had finished third, seventh and ninth here so he was already something of a course specialist. Surprisingly, he hasn't managed a single top 10 on the PGA Tour this year but, as the all-time leading money earner in this event, it's a decent bet that he'll end that at TPC Louisiana.
Keegan Bradley (16/1): The 2011 USPGA champion was fancied to have a big week at Augusta but, despite making the cut, he found himself playing the final round with a marker due to being dead last after 54 holes. At least he closed well, his 69 being 13 shots better than what he managed in round three. Going into The Masters, Bradley had reeled off four straight top 10s so was one of the form players on the PGA Tour. In this event, he was tied 26th in 2011 but didn't make it past halfway last year.
Bubba Watson (16/1): It'll be interesting to see if handing over the Green Jacket will liberate Watson or take something away from him. The 2012 Augusta champ made a disappointing defence of his Masters title, finishing 50th, whilst prior to that he'd posted back-to-back top 20s in his native Florida although he was rather lacking in spark. Bubba is a former champion here having won the title in 2011 while he was also fifth on debut in 2007.
Rickie Fowler (20/1): Fowler had a rather rollerocoaster ride at Augusta, battling back from a few horror moments to sit ninth after 54 holes before slumping to tied 38th after a Sunday 78. Before that he'd been third at Bay Hill and earlier in the season he'd kicked off his 2013 campaign with a pair of top sixes. His 10th place here last year included a second round 65 and that added to a 26th on his first appearance in the event in 2011.
Nick Watney (25/1): Watney made this his first PGA Tour title when he won here in 2007 although his form at TPC Louisiana since then has been disappointing: 42-MC-20-MC. The Californian hasn't really got going this year and looked set to miss the cut at Augusta National after an opening 78. But he bounced back in fine fashion to shoot seven-under over the last 54 holes and that was one better than eventual winner Adam Scott. After that tied 13th, has he turned the corner?
Thorbjorn Olesen (28/1): It's a huge testament to the young Dane that he's already going off at this sort of price in a PGA Tour event. However, it's justified as he's taken to US courses like a duck to water, already racking up a seventh place at Bay Hill and a tied sixth at Augusta after a superb weekend performance when he carded successive 68s (winner Scott shot 69-69). And that despite suffering whiplash in a car crash in Houston. He smacks of a future superstar but it's still asking a lot for him to win on US soil so soon.
Best of the rest
Jeff Overton (50/1): The 2010 Ryder Cup star watched The Masters and tweeted: "It really stinks having to sit at home and watch majors on tv. Gotta get back in them all!" A victory here would help sort that out and it could just be that Overton can finally get over the line and post his first win. He was runner-up at TPC Louisiana in 2010, made the top 20 here in 2009 and 2012 and he was seventh in the Texas Open the week before Augusta.
Jimmy Walker (60/1): The Texan was going off at half this price in better fields a couple of months ago. He's cooled down a little since his fourth at Torrey Pines and third at Pebble Beach although he was eighth at Bay Hill last month and only poor third rounds kept him down the field in the Houston and Texas Opens. He finished 18th here last year after shooting 68-68 over the final 36 holes.
Nick Watney was close to missing the Masters cut but the determination he showed to make it through and then play some fine golf on the weekend could really kick-start his season.
That boost, his improved putting, a liking for Bermudagrass greens and a return to the scene of his first PGA Tour win all combine to make him a good each-way selection at 25/1.
Another Butch Harmon pupil - Jimmy Wallker - also takes my eye.
In a tweet the other day, Walker said: "Great work done with Butch this week" so hopefully he's ready to really fire again on a course where he played so well at the weekend last year.
At the price, he's definitely worth an each-way punt to make the frame and hopefully post a first PGA Tour win.
The good news for Walker is that this event has been kind to those looking for their first victory - Dufner last year, Andres Romero in 2008, Watney in 2007, Chris Couch in 2006 - so hopefully he can shed his maiden tag.
Another looking to make the big breakthrough after numerous near misses is Jeff Overton so get him on board at 50s.
The former Ryder Cupper boasts a strong record here and has hit form.
2pts e.w. Nick Watney at 25/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Jimmy Walker at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Jeff Overton at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)