NEW ORLEANS – Jason Bohn opens his Zurich Classic of New Orleans title defense Thursday, hoping to regain some magic from a year ago.
He set a scoring record last year at TPC of Louisiana with an 18-under 270 in a two-shot win over Jeff Overton. He opened with a 65 in 2010 and held onto the lead.
Yet Bohn’s game has waned after donning Mardi Gras beads and participating in the second-line parade – traditions reserved for the Zurich winner.
In the second half of last year, he entered 17 tournaments but missed the cut in six. His best finish was a tie for 13th at the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
This year, Bohn has made six of eight cuts with earnings of $161,644 for 144th on the PGA Tour money list. He has a single top 25 finish – a tie for ninth at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun, which was played opposite of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
“When you go back to a place you’ve had good success, all those positive vibes come back,” he said. “I’m excited. And I’m ready to eat some good food. I wish I was the defending champion every week.”
Yet his defense of his title may be more difficult than he originally envisioned. Hampered by weak fields and non-attractive playing dates in recent years, the Zurich has one of the best fields in a decade.
Even the weather could be a factor – strong thunderstorms were expected to move through the New Orleans area Wednesday evening, which might take some of the sting out of the traditional firm greens at the course, which sits on filled-in swampland.
Strong winds also are expected for much of the weekend, which will play a significant role since there are relatively few trees around the 7,341-yard layout.
This year, three of the world’s top 10-ranked players are participating, thanks to the tour moving back the tournament to three weeks after The Masters, something Zurich officials had been lobbying for the past several years.
Headlining the field is Luke Donald, who missed an opportunity to snag the world’s top ranking last week at the Heritage when he lost to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff, allowing Lee Westwood to claim the top spot. Snedeker, ranked 38th in the World Golf Ratings, also is in the field.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, ranked No. 5, and ninth-ranked Steve Stricker, also are expected to participate.
The 2007 Zurich winner, Nick Watney will compete, as will fan favorite Rickie Fowler, who at 36th in the world rankings is the highest ranked player to have not won a tournament.
Vijay Singh, who won the Zurich Classic at English Turn Golf and Country Club in 2004, is trying to use the Zurich to play his way into a U.S. Open exemption.
Bohn is coming off a tie for 36th at the Heritage but said what was most encouraging was that he had to birdie four of the last six holes just to stick around for the weekend.
“I definitely think it carries some momentum,” he said.