The Zurich Classic tees off Thursday morning at TPC Louisiana and when you are watching the tournament this weekend, one thing is going to jump out at you even more than the play – the course itself. Make sure you have it on in HD, if you can. The course opened in 2004 and the Zurich Classic moved there the following year. Stretching across the wetlands of the Mississippi River, it has been consistently ranked among the top public courses in the country every year since it opened.
The first thing that you will notice as you begin to draft your squads is the field. It’s a little top-heavy, to say the least. Which, as a small consolation, does mean that there are a few great players really weighing down that top. With Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Justin Rose, you have three bona fide elite players, both in reality and perception (which don’t always line up). And you have two others in the Top-20 of the Official World Golf Ranking: Ricky Fowler and Billy Horschel.
The thing about these five is, despite their clear place at the top of the game, sometimes they feel hard to trust in your daily lineups (well, except DJ). But then you look, and you get too far beyond those top ten or so and there is a pretty clear drop-off. A bunch of the guys typically filling out that $9,000-$10,000 price range just aren’t there. What do you look for in that situation?
You can look to the course and the tournament history, for one. And when you look at the history of the Zurich Classic at this course, you see a lot of first-time winners, no repeats, and you see low scores. You also only see two instances where the final margin was more than one stroke, and three times the winner took it down in a playoff. And from all that you can conclude a couple of things: 1. predicting the winner might be hard and 2. you are going to need birdies.
Predicting a win for someone who has never won before would be a great call, but your most important calls, as always, will be the most expensive ones. There’s just so much downside to being wrong. And if you just decide on that one pricey player and hope he finishes as high as possible – top five would be great – you’ll be in good shape if you’re right.
More importantly, if you can cluster a few guys in that top-15, it likely means every one of them dropped -10 or better, with winning scores of of at least -18 in four of the past five years. And that means lots and lots of fantasy points. A stat you can look at as you pick you lineup, then, is as basic as it comes: “Birdie or Better Percentage.” You can look at total birdies and birdie averages too, but this gets at the heart of it pretty quick. You’ll notice Day and Johnson near the top, but as you scroll down you might see some names that will influence your lineup decisions – names like Justin Thomas at 14, or Swafford at 23. For guys that can score, the bad rounds on a course like this one are still often under par. If they manage to avoid those rounds altogether, you’ll look brilliant, but even if they don’t, you should be able to pile on the fantasy points along the way.