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Punch Shot: Top PGA Tour stop to attend

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The PGA Tour hits New Orleans this week for the Zurich Classic. With its atmosphere, festivities and food, is it the best annual stop on Tour? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their top tournaments to attend.

By REX HOGGARD

Full disclosure: I was married in New Orleans, just across Canal Street from the iconic Hotel Monteleone, and spend two gluttonous weeks out of each calendar in the Crescent City.

Our favorite restaurant is Galatoire’s ... or maybe Tujague’s (as if you could pick your favorite child), and continue to be amazed by the resilience of my extended family in the chaotic years since Hurricane Katrina.

No, TPC Louisiana is not among the PGA Tour’s best layouts – truth is, it’s not among the best TPC's – but there is not a better event on Tour in terms of atmosphere. In New Orleans it’s called lagniappe – a little extra, a gift.

From Ruth’s Chris steak sliders on the range on Wednesday to the soulful buzz wafting through the French Quarter (no one stays in Westwego, which is where TPC Louisiana is located), the Zurich Classic is less golf tournament than it is second line.

And the potential is there to get even better. An East Lake-like project continues to gain momentum and ground has already been broken in City Park for a championship golf course that could one day host the Zurich.

Full disclosure: the Zurich Classic doesn’t get the best field or have the best course on Tour, but there is no better vibe in golf.


By RANDALL MELL

Give me the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

It’s the best Tour stop to attend solely by virtue of being “The most felicitous meeting of land and sea in creation.” That’s how Robert Louis Stevenson described the spectacular nature of the land that is home to the golf courses that this event is played upon.

There’s entertainment beyond golf shots with Bill Murray’s comic banter. If you’re not a Murray fan, you don’t have to follow him. You can sit yourself aside the seventh hole and listen to sea lions barking and waves crashing on the craggy shoreline. There is also 17-Mile Drive, the Del Monte Forest and Cannery Row. A trip to this event is just plain good for the soul.


By JASON SOBEL

One of my colleagues said it best a few years ago: If Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones had traveled north (OK, northeast) from Atlanta instead of due east, then Quail Hollow Golf Course would exist as the modern-day version of Augusta National.

As it is, the host venue for the Wells Fargo Championship isn’t that far off.

In the 10 years since the tournament first found its way onto the PGA Tour schedule, it’s been home to superstar-filled fields and a major championship-ready course. As such, the winners list shows proven champions like Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk, plus up-and-coming youngsters like Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler.

Throw in an increasingly knowledgeable fan base, the usually perfect Charlotte weather and other charms of the surrounding Queen City, and the Wells Fargo Championship is a still-underrated gem.

I’m hardly a one tournament kind of guy. Ask me tomorrow and I may reply with anything from Sawgrass to Phoenix, or East Lake to Kapalua, but right this very second, I’m looking ahead to Quail Hollow – and pretty happy that I only have to wait a few more days until I’m there.


By WILL GRAY

For my money, you can’t beat a Saturday afternoon at The Players.

Where to begin? A top-notch field playing for one of the game’s most prestigious titles. A golf course that each year is in pristine condition and is designed with spectator viewing en masse in mind. A state-of-the-art clubhouse and veranda that serves as a backdrop for the leaders coming down the final fairway.

Perhaps it’s my bias as an SEC alum, or perhaps it’s the fact that in mid-May my internal clock is already starting to count down the days until college football’s return and TPC Sawgrass often offers a glimpse into the atmosphere of fall. Either way, the frenzied scene surrounding the course’s signature 17th hole – with crowds packing the hill around the island green, and a dollar or two changing hands behind the hedge lining the tee box – is nearly unrivaled among the Tour’s regular stops.

There may be other courses that are more visually breathtaking, or venues that are more iconic. But I’ll take an afternoon among North Florida’s finest, watching the best in the game battle against one of the more memorable finishing stretches they encounter each year.