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Zurich Open Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 04/24/2012

The PGA Tour heads to the bayou for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans from TPC Louisiana, the sixth straight year it has been the host course and seventh overall. This is the second to final tuneup before THE PLAYERS Championship, the fifth major, that takes place in two weeks. Last year's Zurich was a great finish as Bubba Watson defeated Webb Simpson on the second playoff hole to win his second tour event and the current Masters champion will be back to defend his title.

TPC Louisiana is a par-72, 7,425-yard track and while long, it does not necessarily reward the big hitters even though Watson shot that down last year after averaging a field best 331 yards off the tee. Two years ago, only four of the top 15 players finished with driving averages surpassing 300 yards so while length is important, it is more about precision here. The greens are massive but are filled will undulations so while hitting the green isn't difficult, what matters most is where they are hit.

The course was 26th out of 52 in difficulty two years ago but last year was the seventh most difficult out of the 21 par-72 tracks played. The field gets a boost this week after a light field in San Antonio as more big names are making the trek to the Big Easy. Four players from the OWGR top ten are in play with Luke Donald (3rd), Bubba Watson (4th), Steve Stricker (7th) and Justin Rose (10th) teeing it up. They will be joined by six other 2012 winners as well as 12 past champions of the Zurich Classic.

Bubba Watson (+1,200) will be making his first start since winning the Masters in a playoff. He has not finished outside the top 20 this year and he has three straight top four finishes going back to the Cadillac Championship where he was the runner-up. He has missed the cut only once in New Orleans and has a T5 to his credit as well back in 2007.

The other co-favorite is Luke Donald (+1,200) who has not missed a cut and already has a win at the Transitions. The problem is that he has been inside the top 30 in only one other event so it has been an inconsistent season. He made his first start in New Orleans last year and finished T8 and was one of only 10 players with four sub-par rounds.

Keegan Bradley (+2,000) should be a player to watch this week. He last started at the Masters and his T27 was only his second finish outside the top 25 this year. He has two top fives including a T2 at the Northern Trust Open in a playoff loss and this will be his second start at the Zurich after finishing T26 last year after a solid Sunday 68.

Jason Dufner (+2,500) isn't flying under the radar anymore but the value is still there. He finished as a runner-up twice last year and this year he has made nine straight weekends including four straight top 25's. He loves it at TPC Louisiana as the last three years he has placed T3, T7 and T9. He has improved each year which means a victory could be next.

Charles Howell III (+3,000) finished T13 here last year after finishing T2 in 2009, one shot behind winner Jerry Kelly. He has never missed a cut in this event and that streak should not end as he has missed only one cut in 11 starts this year. He has not placed inside the top ten since a T2 at the opening Sony but he is close to putting it together.

Nick Watney (+3,000) is a former winner in New Orleans as he captured the 2007 Zurich Classic and also finished T20 last year. He has been good this year as he has yet to miss a cut but he hasn't been able to elevate himself to contend as his highest finish was at the Accenture Match play. This could be the week as past success here comes into play.

Greg Chalmers (+5,000) is the longshot bet this week after nearly cashing with Matt Every last week. Chalmers is not a household name but he has been playing well with four top 20's in seven made cuts out of 11 starts. He has done very well in New Orleans also as over the last three years, he has finishes of T8, solo fifth and T24.

Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (all for One Unit)

Keegan Bradley (+2,000)

Jason Dufner (+2,500)

Charles Howell III (+3,000)

Nick Watney (+3,000)

Greg Chalmers (+5,000)

Record to date after 15 events: -3.9 Units

Sony Open -5 Units

Humana Challenge -6 Units

Farmers Insurance Open +22 Units

Waste Management Phoenix Open -5 Units

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units

Northern Trust Open -5 Units

Accenture Match Play +7.1 Units

Honda Classic -5 Units

WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units

Transitions Championship +6 Units

Arnold Palmer Invitational -4 Units

Shell Houston Open +16 Units

The Masters -6 Units

RBC Heritage -5 Units

Valero Texas Open -4 Units (Kevin Na WD)

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