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Stat attack!: Zurich Classic of New Orleans preview

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AVONDALE, LA - APRIL 28: Billy Horschel hits his tee shot on the 15th hole during the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana on April 28, 2013 in Avondale, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

At the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans Billy Horschel (pictured) and D.A. Points took disparate paths to the top of the leaderboard. Horschel impressed in greens in regulation and proximity to the hole, while Points was dominant in fairways hit and scrambling. They were both outstanding once they got to the green, Points finishing second in strokes gained and Horschel third. Horschel was the tournament leader in putting from beyond 10 feet. His 26-foot birdie putt on the last hole, was his 15th putt made from more than 10 feet for the tournament and it provided the margin of victory in Horschel’s first PGA Tour win.

Tournament stats for the leaders at the 2013 Zurich Classic

 Player Distance Accuracy GIR Prox. to hole Scrambling Str. Gained
Putting
Putts from
10+ feet
 Billy
 Horschel
288.3 (27) 55.36% (T63) 81.94% (T2) 28' 2" (4) 61.54% (50) 1.768 (3) 15/45; 33.33% (1)
 D.A.
 Points
276.5 (58) 82.14% (1) 69.44% (T38) 35' 6" (41) 90.91% (2) 1.868 (2) 9/34; 26.47% (5)

That’s the type of venue the TPC Louisiana is turning into. It doesn’t favor any particular type of golfer. Winners there have been bombers (Bubba Watson) or shorter hitters (Jerry Kelly). Hit plenty of fairways as Jason Bohn did in 2011, or play the course from the rough as Horschel did a year ago. It hardly seems to matter.

What Horschel did last year was maximize his opportunities. His Sunday 64 included nine birdies and he made 15 on the weekend. The 64 tied the current course tournament record and his weekend rounds of 66-64—130 added up to the lowest last 36-hole total since the event moved to TPC Louisiana. It was the culmination of a grand start to the 2013 season for the Floridian, the victory coming in his 12th-straight cut made and his fourth-straight top 10. But a repeat performance might not be in Horschel’s future. Although eight of the previous 10 winners of the Zurich Classic made the cut, none finished in the top 10. In fact, only 2005 winner Tim Petrovic has a subsequent top-10 finish in the tournament, with a T-7 in 2008.

How the defending champion fared at the Zurich Classic: 2004-2013

 Player Year won Following year
 Jason Dufner 2012 T-42
 Bubba Watson 2011 T-18
 Jason Bohn  2010 T-67
 Jerry Kelly 2009 T-67
 Andres Romero 2008 DQ
 Nick Watney  2007 T-42
 Chris Couch 2006 T-80
 Tim Petrovic 2005 MC
 Vijay Singh 2004 T-21
 Steve Flesch 2003 T-45

Horschel is one of five players who got his first PGA Tour victory at TPC Louisiana. The Zurich Classic was first played at TPC Louisiana in 2006 and moved there permanently in 2008. Among the group in the previous chart, Dufner, Romero, Watney and Petrovic lifted their initial hardware on the Bayou. (Couch and Flesch did too, but they won at English Turn G&CC, the tournament’s home from 1989-2004 and 2006.)

A good percentage of the players in the Zurich Classic are seeking PGA Tour win number one, some have been seeking it longer than others. Eight players in this year’s field have made more than 200 starts on Tour and haven’t won. Three of them – Brian Davis, Jeff Overton and Charlie Wi – came close in New Orleans.

Most PGA Tour starts with no wins among 2014 Zurich Classic field

 Player Starts Runner-ups on Tour Best Zurich finish
 Briny Baird 375 6 T-8, 2003
 Greg Chalmers 349 2 Fifth, 2010
 Brian Davis 293 5 T-17, 2005
 James Driscoll 227 2 2, 2005
 Jeff Overton 226 4 2, 2010
 Charlie Wi 220 5 T-2, 2009
 Tag Ridings 210 1 T-26, 2011
 Chris Stroud 204 1 T-5, 2007

Baird and Stroud are among the group of 11 winless players in the Zurich Classic field who have finished in the top-three of a PGA Tour event this season. (Horschel had a second and a third in 2013 before he won.)

Winless players with top finishes in 2013-14

 Player Best 2013-14 result
 Brooks Koepka T-3 Frys.com
 Chris Stroud T-3 CIMB, T-3 Mayakoba
 Briny Baird T-2 McGladrey
 Graham DeLaet T-2 Farmers, T-2 Phoenix
 Jim Renner T-2 Pebble
 Brian Harman T-3 No. Trust
 Russell Knox T-2 Honda
 Danny Lee 2-Puerto Rico
 Ben Martin T-3 Puerto Rico, T-3 Heritage
 Scott Langley 3 Valspar
 Daniel Summerhays T-2 Texas

Those looking for their first win this week won’t have to deal with a very strong field. None of the top-10 players on the Official World Golf Ranking are playing in the Big Easy. Only nine of the top 50, including the Big Easy himself, are playing. Two players from that group – Horschel and Nick Watney – have won in New Orleans.

Top players on the world ranking in the New Orleans field

 Rank Player Best Zurich result
 11 Justin Rose T-5 in 2004
 21 Keegan Bradley T-26 in 2011
 25 Patrick Reed T-24 in 2012
 31 Graham DeLaet T-4 in 2012
 36 Rickie Fowler T-10 in 2012
 42 Matt Every T-32 in 2013
 44 Ernie Els Second in 2012
 49 Nick Watney Won in 2007
 50 Billy Horschel Won in 2013

One final note: It’s not rare that a player from the same region wins the host tournament, but the last four winners of the Zurich Classic in New Orleans – Jason Bohn, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner and Billy Horschel – all have ties to the deep south. Although Bohn and Dufner were born in Pennsylvania and Ohio, respectively, they both went to college in Alabama (Bohn in Tuscaloosa and Dufner at Auburn). Horschel and Watson are Floridians. Before that, Louisiana native won the tournament in 2001 and if you want to go stray farther south, a pair of players from South America have won in recent years, Argentina’s Romero in 2008 and Paraguay’s Carlos Franco in 1999 and 2000.