|Zurich Classic of New Orleans - April 17, 2007
ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS
Par: 36-36—72Yards: 7,341
FedExCup Points: 25,000 Winner: 4,500
Purse: $6,100,000Winner: $1,098,000
2006 Champion: Chris Couch (269, -19)
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Notes
The tournament returns to TPC Louisiana this year after being contested at English Turn Golf and Country Club in 2006. English Turn was the tournament course from 1989-2004 and was needed last year when Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the TPC Louisiana making it unable to host the event.
Maybe there is something about the state of Louisiana that suits Kentucky resident Steve Flesch. The lefty has had continued success in the state. Flesch earned his first PGA TOUR win at the Zurich Classic in 2003 and has finished second twice and sixth on another occasion. Flesch has posted below-par scores in 25 of his 32 career rounds in the tournament, with a first-round scoring average of 68.44 in nine starts. When he was a member of the Nationwide Tour, Flesch tied for 15th and finished second in his two appearances at the Louisiana Open in 1997-98, where all seven of his rounds were below par as well.
First-time winners have become a little more common over the past couple of years in New Orleans. Four of the past five tournament winners have made the Zurich Classic their first PGA TOUR win: K.J. Choi (2002), Steve Flesch (2003), Tim Petrovic (2005) and Chris Couch (2006). Vijay Singh in 2004 is the only recent champion to have previously won before winning in the Crescent City .
There haven’t been too many winners who started over-par in New Orleans. The highest first-round score by an eventual champion was a 2-over 74 by Lon Hinkle in 1978. Hinkle rebounded with scores of 67-64-66 at Lakewood Country Club, finishing at 17-under 271, one better than Gibby Gilbert and Fuzzy Zoeller.
The TPC Louisiana was designed by Pete Dye, with PGA TOUR players Steve Elkington and New Orleans resident Kelly Gibson serving as design consultants on the 7,341-yard, par-72 public course.
Chris Couch could join a rather small list of players who have successfully defended their PGA TOUR titles on a different course. The last player to do was Tiger Woods, who successfully defended his World Golf Championship-CA Championships title earlier this year at Doral a year after winning the same tournament in Hertfordshire, England. Woods also defended that same title in 2003 in Atlanta after winning it in 2002 in Ireland.
Over the years, six players over age 40 have gone on to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The first to do it was Dick Mayer in 1965, and the last was Vijay Singh in 2004. In between, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Calvin Peete and Ben Crenshaw also registered wins for the over-40 set.
E NOTES FROM THE PGA TOUR
- When Zach Johnson finished sixth last week at the Verizon Heritage, he became only the third player to win the Masters and then Top-10 the following week since 1985. Bernhard Langer won both events in 1985 and Vijay Singh followed his 2000 Masters victory with a T3 at Hilton Head.
- You might want to look for a first-time winner this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Four of the last five winners — K.J. Choi (2002), Steve Flesch (2003), Tim Petrovic (2005) and Chris Couch (2006) — all claimed their first TOUR titles in the Crescent City.
- Speaking of Steve Flesch, he simply loves Louisiana. In addition to winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2003, he’s also been the runner-up twice and finished sixth. In addition, he finished second at the 1998 Louisiana Open, T5 at the 1997 Shreveport Open and T15 at the 1997 Louisiana Open on the Nationwide Tour.
- Befitting an international city like New Orleans, this week’s field at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans features players from 17 different countries. The tournament has a history of international winners with tournaments won by players from England, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Wales, Paraguay, South Korea and Fiji.
- Boo Weekley’s victory at the Verizon Heritage was the 202nd by a former Nationwide Tour player and the sixth this season. He’s the 14th player to graduate from the Nationwide Tour and then win the following season on the PGA TOUR.
- It was a week for healthy jumps up the FedExCup points board. Winner Boo Weekley gained 28 spots to climb into eighth place while runner-up Ernie Els also gained 28 positions and is now 18th on the list. The biggest improvement, however, was made by Stephen Leaney who advanced 58 places to 45th on the season.
- Andy North and Tom Watson will be looking to win their third consecutive Raphael Division (50-69 years of age) crown at this week’s Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. The duo has not made a bogey in the last two years. Jimmy Powell and Orville Moody will also be looking for a third consecutive title in the Demaret Division (70 years plus).
- Doug Ford will be making his 30th consecutive appearance in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. He’s the only player to have competed in all 30.
- Jay Haas will be looking to defend the individual crown he collected last year the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. He won last year’s tournament by five strokes, one of two events last year in which he had that big a margin over the runner-up. He also won the Administaff Small Business Classic by five.
- Loren Roberts will be looking to extend his record streak of consecutive rounds of par or better this week in Savannah. He has 35 in a row entering the competition.
- This week’s field at the Athens Regional Foundation Classic will feature 33 players who have won a total of 76 PGA TOUR titles during their careers. Included on this list are winners of the Masters (Larry Mize) and U.S. Open (Steve Jones). The field has four former Ryder Cup team and two Presidents Cup team members.
- The Nationwide Tour is international, too. This week’s field will feature players from 15 countries.
- The Athens Regional Foundation Classic will offer familiar surroundings for several players this week. No less than six players in the field attended the University of Georgia in Athens — Chip Beck, Justin Bolli, Paul Claxton, Erik Compton, Franklin Langham and Matt Peterson.
- John Kimbell, who won last week’s South Georgia Classic, didn’t take up the game of golf until he was 23 years old. A native of Atlanta, the 38-year old is a rookie on the Nationwide Tour this year.