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Zurich Classic preview + Volvo China Open tips

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The Zurich Classic, held in New Orleans is this week’s event, and players without a win on the PGA Tour, will be hoping to continue a steady tradition.

Sinced 2007, there have been four players, who managed to get their first PGA Tour win here, Andres Romero, Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner and Nick Watney all managed to get their first Tour victory here at TPC Louisiana. Before them, both K.J Choi and Lee Westwood got their first PGA Tour wins here in New Orleans, so it seems a happy stomping ground for those without a win.

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Since 2007, the winning score here, has ranged between -13 and -20, so you will need to go low in order to win the Zurich Classic. The current 18-hole record at, TPC Louisiana is 64, held by no less than seven players. Five of those players are playing this week and they are, Billy Horschel (4th round), Greg Chalmers (2nd round), Russell Knox (2nd round), Ryan Palmer (3rd round) and Troy Matteson (2nd round).

Of those, Horschel’s 64, in the final round last year to secure the win, to me is the most impressive. To shoot such a low round, on the final day of any golf tournament is clutch, but when doing it in contention, en-route to your first win is mightily impressive.

The Course: TPC Louisiana, Par 72, 7,425 yards.

TPC Louisiana is not short in length, but for me, driving distance is not a major concern, when looking at previous winners, so I’ve given that a miss.

Arguably most stand out stat, when winning here is the par-5 performance, as taking advantage of the longer holes, will indeed be needed to go low.

Then of course it’s always worth keeping an eye on someone hitting a lot of greens. This seems to be the case most weeks, but especially so when the scoring is as low as it is here. Scrambling for par after a missed green won’t be enough here, and you will need to give yourself a chance of making putts.

If you don’t trust your selection to make many putts, proximity to the hole may be worth checking out. If a player is hitting it close a lot, it certainly eases the pressure on the putts.

Market Leaders: Justin Rose 14/1, Rickie Fowler 20/1, Keegan Bradley 22/1, Graeme Delaet 25/1, Ryan Palmer 28/1.

Apart from possibly Rose, all of the above players have numerous question marks by the name, especially at these prices, and it’s whether you like them strongly enough this week to take them at what is a deflated price for most.

This isn’t the strongest field, hence the prices, but I am happy for the most part to look lower down the market. I have taken one from the top of the betting however.

Here are my selections for the 2014 Zurich Classic.

Rickie Fowler 20/1 (General) 2.5pts e/w: Fowler comes in a bit shorter than I would of hoped this week, but at the same time I rate his chances very highly, and for me a 2nd PGA Tour win is right on the horizon.

Since working with Butch Harmon at the tail-end of last year, Fowler’s game has looked a lot more in control, and this could be a game changer in his career.

Whilst always a flamboyant, courageous player, Fowler’s inconsistency has so far seen him fall short of his high expectations, with only one win on the PGA Tour.

On paper, statistically it looks as though Fowler has had a torrid season, and to start with, it’s wasn’t great. What it doesn’t tell you, is that he has been going through swing changes, and he now looks to be benefiting from them.

He’s finished 6th at the Shell Houston Open, and 5th at the Masters in his last two starts, and if you add that to his 3rd at the WGC – Matchplay, the story becomes a lot rosier for Fowler.

His inconsistent start to the season wasn’t much of a surprise, but now, with the work he’s been doing, he looks to be playing some of the best and most consistent golf of his career to date.

He’s got some form here too, which can only strengthen his case. He made his debut here in 2011, and has played both renewals since.

In those three visits, he has finished, 26th, 10th and 32nd, so all in all he looks pretty comfortable with this TPC Louisiana layout. When he recorded that 10th place finish in 2012, his best effort here, he come into the week off the back of some pretty average form.

In 2012 he was knocked out of the first round of the match play, finished 63rd in Houston, 27th at the Masters and missed a cut at the RBC Heritage the week before too.

That’s a complete contrast to his efforts this season, so I firmly believe he can go better here, this time around, and hopefully get his 2nd Tour win. I really think he is trending in the right direction for another win, and if he can keep up the consistency he’s been showing in recent weeks, he could be a force for the rest of this season.

One of his aspirations, will of course be the Ryder Cup, and if he can get a win this week, which I am adamant he can, he may well feature in Tom Watson’s plans. He’s proven his worth on links golf courses, when playing well at Open Championships in the past, so he could be a useful asset. He will have to do something special heading into to Gleneagles, with all the players competing for places, and hopefully that starts here.

Russell Knox 40/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Like Fowler, Knox comes in slightly shorther than I would of hoped, but as you may know, I am a big fan of his, and he looks set for a maiden victory.

His form this season has been extremely good, making his last five cuts, and not finishing worse than 43rd during that period. His best finishes this year have been at, the Farmers Insurance Open (T10), the Honda Classic (2nd – play-off) and last week when he came 9th at the RBC Heritage.

He currently leads the PGA Tour in Proximity To Hole, and also 19th in Driving Accuracy and 27th in Greens in Regulation, so he’s definitely striking the ball incredibly well. On top of that, he also ranks 25th in Par 5 Scoring, which is also a stat thrown out, when looking for a Zurich Classic winner.

This will all stand him in good stead here at TPC Louisiana, and with a slightly depleted field, Knox could take the opportunity with both hands, and get his first victory.

On his sole appearance here, he finished 30th in 2012, and with him being a better player this time around, with some good form behind him, I really like his chances here. I have backed him earlier this year, at 100/1 and 66/1, so it does seem a bit of a drop to back him at 40s, but I would not want to miss his first win, and this week may just be when we see him get it done.

This may be one of Knox’s best chances to win this season, with quite a few of the big names missing, so hopefully he rides the form bus, and goes well again here, in Louisiana.

Nicholas Thompson 80/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Nicholas Thompson was at the forefront of my mind this week, after his great finish at the RBC Heritage last week, when he came T12. Including last week, his last four tournaments have seen him miss one cut, and finish 24th and 26th in the other two events, so he’s playing fairly well.

On top of that, Thompson has shown a liking to TPC Louisiana, finishing inside the top-10 on two occasions (7th in 2010 and 4th in 2008), so hopefully he can produce something similar this week.

On the other two occasions he’s teed it up here, he’s finished 24th and missed a cut, so all in all he looks pretty comfortable with the layout, and hopefully he can draw on some confidence from last week.

He certainly fits the category of a first-time winner, as he is still yet to grab a win on the PGA Tour, since his debut on the tour in 2006, but he is not a complete stranger to getting over the line.

Thompson did win on America’s second-tier tour, the Web.com back in 2007, winning the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship. Although this does not fill me with confidence, and certainly wasn’t a factor in my decision this week, it does it least show he has done it before.

If he can keep up his good play, and play carry over, what looks to be some consistent form, he is definitely a threat this week. Whilst consistency has never been his strong point, he is returning to a course he’s excelled at before, and hopefully that’s enough for him to contend again.

His course form, and decent ranking in Par 5 Performance (28th), coupled with good current form, was enough for me to go with him, so hopefully he produces.

Volvo China Open Tips

With yet another course change at the Volvo China Open, it’s hard to gauge whether past form will be anything to go by, and which players will be most suited to this new test. For that reason I’ve kept this short, and have just picked a couple of players who I believe can go well this week.

Brett Rumford 80/1 (Betfred, StanJames, Totesport) 1pt e/w: Brett Rumford won this event last year, and despite the change in venue, I believe the Australian can go well again.

Rumford has finished 1st, T29 and T22 on his last three starts in this event, and I can see him replicating the form he showed last year.

Australian’s have had a fantastic season over in America, and Rumford would love put another Aussie stamp on the European Tour as well. He won two times last year, and although he has had his struggles since, he may well be ready to play some golf at a similar level once again.

He finished T11 on his last start, at the Trophee Hassan II, which was his third top-15 in six starts on the European Tour in 2014. He also finished T13 at the Dubai Desert Classic, and T10 at the Volvo Golf Champions, so he is still playing some solid golf.

In this field, he looks a good price at 80/1, and hopefully he performs in this part of the world once again.

Kristoffer Broberg 125/1 (General) 0.5pt e/w: Broberg is a good player, who has struggled for consistency so far in his career, but has looked good in the last few weeks, and looks a good price to perform again.

In his last three starts, Broberg has finished 6th, T25 and T24, so that’s three cuts made in a row, and three solid performances to boot. His 6th place finish at the NH Collection Open las time out, was his best result, since his 2nd place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the end of 2012, so the signs are promising.

He finished T41 on his debut in China, in his first full season on Tour, and he will look to improve on that this time. As it’s seemingly impossible to know who this course setup will suit, I am happy to take a chance on an in-form player at a three-figure price.

Total Points Staked this week: 12

Profit/Loss for 2014: +129.91

The Zurich Classic is a happy stomping ground for those guys without a win, but I also favour players adding to their total too. With a weaker field, there is an opening for some of these players above to really contend for either their first win, or add to their first, I’ve got for a mixture of the two.

The last few weeks haven’t gone to plan, but I am confident our fortune can change, and hopefully that starts this week in both the Volvo China Open, and the Zurich Classic.