Remembering The Top Five Finishes Of The Zurich Classic

Posted on April 20, 2022

Louisiana wouldn’t have a golf tournament like everybody else.

So we don’t.

The Zurich Classic this weekend at TPC of Louisiana is the only team event on the PGA Tour.

Teams of two, what we call ‘mon ami’ in French, play using the best-ball format for Rounds 1 and 3. Both players play the hole and count the best score. And then, the alternate shot (two players swap shots) in Rounds 2 and 4. The format was changed in 2017.

The defending champs are the tandem with Cam Smith and Marc Leishman. They will team up again this weekend.

The favorites at the Louisiana online sportsbooks are the team of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland (+650).

The reigning Masters winner, Scottie Scheffler, is pairing with Ryan Palmer (+900). Sergio Garcia will play with Tommy Fleetwood (+1600). Another notable pair is Jay Haas, who at age 68, will play with his son Bill.

For more tournament information, here are team listings and a highlight on LSU Tiger Sam Burns.

What to know if you go to the Zurich Classic

There has been a PGA Tour stop in the Greater New Orleans area regularly since 1938. It’s gone by many names: New Orleans Open, USF&G Classic, Freeport-McMoRan Classic. 

No one has ever won the event three times. 10 different players have won it twice. Some of the greatest players in golf history have been champions here:

  • Byron Nelson
  • Ben Crenshaw
  • Seve Ballesteros
  • Tom Watson

It was at English Turn from 1989 to 2004 before moving to what is officially Avondale in 2005.

It’s on the West Bank, which natives know, means going south of the river. Take the Huey P. Long Bridge if you are brave or take the Crescent City Connection from the center of New Orleans.

Thursday’s first-round starts at 7 a.m. and Friday starts at 8 a.m.

The Golf Channel will have coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. CBS takes over coverage for rounds 3 and 4 starting at 2 p.m. Bring water. It’s going to be hot. Wear sunscreen.

Best five finishes in Zurich Classic history

No. 1 Watson calling, 1981

Tom Watson was at the height of his powers in 1981 when he came to the Lakewood Country Club looking to repeat as champion. He had won The Masters two weeks before.

Lingering near the lead over the first three days, Watson seized control on the back nine on Sunday with birdies at 11, 12 and 14 to win with an 18-under 270.

Afterward, Watson said the course was the easiest on tour, which was true. 

No. 2 Vijay Day, 2004

No one blistered the back nine at English Turn as Vijay Singh did. Singh came back from six shots back over the last eight holes to get past Phil Mickelson and Joe Ogilvie and win by a stroke.

Singh capped the victory with a clinching 25-footer for birdie at 18. He shot a 29 on the back nine.

No 3 All you need is love, 1996

For a long time, the tour stop in New Orleans was the week just before The Masters, which wasn’t good for drawing top names, because a lot of players would take that week off.

But in 1995, it was perfect for a dramatic victory. The Masters still granted any PGA tour winner a spot in the event and Davis Love III, who had barely fallen short on the money list to qualify for The Masters needed to win to get in.

It turned into a two-man battle between Love III and Louisiana-born Mike Heinen on Sunday. Heinen had the fans on his side and led by two shots after an eagle on 11, but he got wet on 18 and the two went to a playoff.

Love III stuck a six-iron within three feet on the second playoff hole and closed out the win and the spot at The Masters. Love III would finish second at The Masters the following week.

No. 4 A tiger on the prowl, 2001

Tiger Woods is, you know, Tiger Woods, but Louisiana claims a Tiger of their own.

Former LSU All-American David Toms, born in Monroe, set the English Turn crowd on fire with his win in 2001. Toms came back from six shots down to beat Phil Mickelson with the gallery chanting LSU! LSU! from the fairway. 

Ironically, the same two would battle it out for the PGA Tour Championship that year, with Toms edging Mickelson by a stroke for his only major title.

Toms remains the only Louisiana native to win the event.

No. 5 Poor Norman, 1990

You can do a documentary on the tough losses by all-time great Greg Norman in golf. Wait, ESPN just recently did that.

One that is regularly forgotten came in 1990 at English Turn. Norman was five shots back on Sunday but roared into contention shooting a 65.

David Frost was stuck in a bunker on the 18th hole, but his 50-foot blast hit nothing but cup for a birdie and a one-shot win over a stoic Norman. It was the fourth of Frost’s 10 PGA Tour wins.

Norman had previously lost the 1986 PGA Championship on a Bob Tway bunker blast on the final hole. He lost The Masters in 1987 on the Larry Mize chip in and lost to Robert Gamez in the 1990 Nestle Invitational on an eagle from 176 yards.

Photo by Butch Dill/Associated Press
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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