2017 Zurich Classic Predictions

Who will win the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans? Our research staff offers previews and predictions. For the first time, this event features two-player teams. The 2014 Zurich Classic is scheduled for April 27-30 at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans.


The Favorites 

Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson
Compatibility: The Ryder Cup teammates share an interchangeable game. Both are fantastic tee-to-green players with a solid short game. This is the reason why the two were paired together at the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Chemistry: They know the other's game well and are close friends.
Outlook: After a strong start to the season, Stenson's form has taken a hit. He has missed three straight cuts--all of which on venues he had previously played well. Fortunately, his partner Rose is a former champion here and will be the perfect anchor for the team.

Jason Day & Rickie Fowler
Compatibility: Day and Fowler play a similar game. Both hit a long but sometimes erratic ball off the tee. Both are fantastic shotmakers. The American's putting has improved dramatically this season, while Day has always been a top putter. All signs point to a successful partnership.
Chemistry: There is no information on the camaraderie between Day and Fowler, but they must be good friends to have picked each other as teammate among many options.
Outlook: Jason Day has struggled with form since returning from injuries. He only has one top-10 in eight starts this season. Most concerning is the fact he currently ranks 144th in putting—traditionally one of his best attributes. Fowler's terrific form will be key in this intercountry partnership.

The Contenders 

Louis Oosthuizen & Branden Grace
Compatibility: Oosthuizen is one of the premier shotmakers on the PGA Tour, while Grace possesses a strong short game. This makes for an interesting combination, giving them an advantage in the alternate shot format. As a pair, they went 2-0 in the foursomes at the 2015 Presidents Cup. 
Chemistry: Both players are from South Africa and have known each other for a long time. They were the stars of the 2015 Presidents Cup, going undefeated as a pair with wins over Kuchar/Reed, Johnson/Spieth, Reed/Fowler and Holmes/Watson.
Outlook: With the Presidents Cup around the corner, the South Africans are auditioned to keep the perfect partnership. Despite playing well for several years, Oosthuizen has zero PGA Tour win since his Open breakthrough. Perhaps the team format will change his fortune. 

Hideki Matsuyama & Hideo Tanihara
Compatibility: Historically, players from the same country make excellent teammates. We all know how great Matsuyama is from tee to green and how mediocre he is on the green. Tanihara should help to ease some of the burdens as he is a great putter. The 38-year-old has ranked third or better in putting the last five years on the Japan Golf Tour. We saw some of this brilliance a few weeks ago at the WGC Match Play. 
Chemistry: Both players are alums of Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai and know each other well. It also helps that they speak the same language. 
Outlook: Although Matsuyama's Masters was a disappointment, he did play well in the final round to finish T11. Tanihara played the Zurich Classic before when he was a tour member. Japanese players have thrived in the team format, winning the World Cup of Golf twice and finishing runner-up four times. Could Matsuyama and Tanihara replicate the same success at the Zurich Classic?

Bubba Watson & J.B. Holmes
Compatibility: This is another partnership that is supposed to be a great fit, at least on paper. Both can hit mammoth drives and stick them close with their irons. Holmes is more accurate off the tee, while Watson is more imaginative. 
Chemistry: According to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes and Watson are good pals who work together to solve many complex mysteries. On a serious note, Bubba and JB paired together at the 2015 Presidents Cup winning 2.5 points for the United States. 
Outlook: Both players have underperformed this season. They are combined for one top-10 this season. The key for them at the Zurich Classic would be to make the cut. After that, they can use their explosive power to go low. 

Daniel Berger & Thomas Pieters
Compatibility: This intercountry pairing features two of most exciting young guns in the game right now. Pieters is a powerful player a la Dustin Johnson. Berger is more about short game and shot execution, which is similar to Jordan Spieth. Contrasts like this make for a good partnership, because players can compensate for each other's weaknesses.
Chemistry: Berger and Pieters committed to this event as a team pretty early, so they must have personally known each other in some capacity. 
Outlook: Both players have played well this season. Berger has five top-25s this season including a runner-up. Pieters has three top-5s in seven starts. By form alone, they are among the favorites. 

Dark Horses 

Byeong Hun An & Seung-Yul Nol
Compatibility: An is very solid from tee to green, while Nol's strength is in the short game. Most players from the same country share a similar game or style, which allows for strong pairings. The exceptions are big golfing countries like United States and the UK. 
Chemistry: Both are South Koreans and good acquaintances. They may have played together in local team events. 
Outlook: An and Nol enjoy great success at the Zurich Classic. Nol won his maiden PGA Tour title here in 2014, while An lost in a playoff last year. Their knowledge of the course and solid chemistry make them a potent team.  

Justin Thomas & Bud Cauley
Compatibility: Thomas possesses a powerful tee-to-green game. He is generally an aggressive player. Cauley's inconsistent game makes it difficult to discern his strengths and weaknesses from statistics. When he plays well, he does hit a lot of greens. If both play well, this could be a dynamic partnership.
Chemistry: Thomas and Cauley are alums of the University of Alabama and live in the South Florida area. They know each other and probably have played together many times. 
Outlook: I thought Thomas would partner with someone with a higher profile like good buddy Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger or Rickie Fowler. But he decides to partner with Cauley, who has played well recently but is still a subpar pick. If they are to win this week, Thomas will have to play superbly. 


Winner: Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson. The TPC Louisiana is a golf course that favors players who are excellent from tee to green. If you look at the list of former champions, names like Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, Billy Horschel and Jerry Kelly really stand out. What all these players have in common is a great tee-to-green game. Rose and Stenson happen to be two of the best tee-to-green players in the world. Unsurprisingly, Rose is a former champion at this event. The two veteran stars have a lot of history. They were paired at the last Ryder Cup and also played in the final group at the Olympics; Rose won gold while Stenson settled for silver. Although there are some concerns with regards to Rose's back injury and Stenson's poor form, both have had abundant rest and should be physically and mentally fresh for this event. 

Top 10 Finish: Daniel Berger & Thomas Pieters. There are two ways to do well in the team format. One is with good compatibility and chemistry. The other is to partner with someone who plays as well as you. When both players play well, everything else is muted. Berger and Pieters fit the latter. The American has five top-25s this season including a runner-up. The Belgian has three top-5s in seven starts. It's hard to find any two players in this field who enjoy better form.

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