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Zurich Classic of New Orleans Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 04/26/2011

The Heritage provided plenty of excitement on Sunday as Brandt Snedeker took out Luke Donald on the third playoff hole to win his second PGA Tour event and first since the 2007 Wyndham Championship. Both players head south to the bayou for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans from TPC Louisiana, the fifth straight year it has been the host course and sixth overall. This is the second to final tuneup before THE PLAYERS Championship, the fifth major, that takes place in two weeks.

TPC Louisiana is a par-72, 7,399-yard track and while long, it does not necessarily reward the big hitters. Last year, only four of the top 15 players finished with driving averages surpassing 300 yards. Length is important for sure but it is more about precision here. The greens are massive but the Pete Dye design greens are filled will undulations so while hitting the green isn't difficult, what matters most is where the greens are hit. The course was 26th out of 52 in difficulty last season.

The field will look very similar to Hilton Head last week as a lot of the same players are making the trek to the Big Easy. The problem is that there are once again not a lot of big names in the field as only six players from the top 25 of the OWGR are teeing it up this week. Three from the top ten are in play with Luke Donald (3rd), Graeme McDowell (5th) and Steve Stricker (9th). They will be joined by three other players in the top 25, Nick Watney (14th), Bubba Watson (17th) and Justin Rose (25th).

10 previous New Orleans winners are back trying to take home the prize once again including defending champion Jason Bohn, Jerry Kelly, Andres Romero, Nick Watney and Tim Petrovic, who are the five players who have won on this course. In addition, 10 Major winners are in the field this week highlighted by the aforementioned Graeme McDowell, David Duval, Justin Leonard, Vijay Singh and David Toms. The field is pretty wide open and big odds have taken home recent wins.

Jason Bohn (+8000) won last year's event by two shots over Jeff Overton with an 18-under-par 270 total, which is a tournament course record. As you can see, he is a big underdog this week as he owns just one top 20 this year, a T19 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which was a very limited field because it was played during the Accenture Match Play Championship. He had three top 20's already when he won last year.

The favorite this week is Luke Donald (+1000) who is coming off a disappointing playoff loss in Hilton Head. Still, it was his fifth top ten of the season and fourth straight in as many medal play starts following his Accenture win. He finished T3 and T2 at the Heritage the previous two years but he did not play the Zurich following those and this will be his first time at TPC Louisiana.

Nick Watney (+1200) won this event in 2007 and was never threatened as he won by three strokes over Ken Duke. That followed a two-week layoff, similar to what he is doing this week. He is already a winner this year as he won at the Cadillac Championship and he has been consistent all season. He finished 46th at the Masters which was his last event and that ended his streak of top 13 finishes at six.

Steve Stricker (+1500) has yet to break through this year but continues to play solid. He has not missed a cut and has three top tens to his credit. He has not played since the Masters, where he finished T11, and the time off will not hurt. He last played the Zurich in 2009 and finished T7 which coincidentally came two weeks after a T6 at the Masters. This is just about the time he picked up his first win a year ago.

Bubba Watson (+2500) has been inconsistent since finishing fourth at the Accenture Match Play as he has finishes of T28, T24 and T38. This could be the turning point however as he is third on tour in total driving and second in greens in regulation and a combination of those two this week is big. His last three starts in New Orleans resulted in a T43, MC and T70 but he did have a T5 in 2007.

We have used Spencer Levine (+5000) a few times and this week he is getting longshot odds. After two straight missed cuts, he finished T14 at the Heritage last week as he almost cashed his fourth top ten of the season. He looks to be back in the swing following that small slump and despite those two missed cuts, he still leads the tour with 189 birdies. He finished T28 here last year.

Big odds have won here recently and Kevin Sutherland (+6000) fits the bill. He has made the cut in five of eight events played this season including a T11 in his last start at the Valero Texas Open. That was his second top 15 of the season. His first and only PGA Tour win came at the 2002 Accenture Match Play but with the longshots that have won here, he could be ready for another as he has never missed a cut at TPC Louisiana.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans Win Bets

Nick Watney (+1200)

Steve Stricker (+1500)

Bubba Watson (+2500)

Spencer Levine (+5000)

Kevin Sutherland (+6000)

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