2021 Zurich Classic Picks, Preview Using Strokes Gained Data: 3 Buys After Last Week
Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Sam Burns
It was all Stewart Cink this week at the RBC Heritage as he posted consecutive 8-under 63s in the opening two rounds to take a five-shot lead into the weekend. The 47-year-old only gave one shot back on Sunday as he cruised to take home his third plaid jacket from Harbour Town. This was his first victory at the event in 17 years, and his second win of the season.
Cink held off charges from Emiliano Grillo and Harold Varner III, as they finished in a tie for second on the week. Maverick McNealy, Corey Conners, and Matt Fitzpatrick would finish two more shots behind them at 13-under in a tie for fourth.
The TOUR now heads west to Louisiana for the Zurich Classic, which converted to a team event just a few years ago. Players will team up with another pro to play four rounds in two different formats, — the first Four-Ball (Best-Ball) and the other alternate shot. It’s a really unique event that breaks up the monotony of the season and gives guys a chance to compete in a different format for the week.
There are a few players that will look to carry some positive momentum from their week in the Low Country of South Carolina into another solid performance at TPC Louisiana. The final strokes gained data will help us see who is coming into Louisiana with good form.
Buys for the Zurich Classic
Everyone seems to be rooting hard for Harold Varner III every single week. He has really turned into one of the most popular players on TOUR outside of the elite, as he always seems to have a smile on his face and to be a genuinely good guy. It’s always fun to see his play match up with that personality as it did over the weekend at the RBC Heritage.
Varner shot a final round 66 to finish in a tie for second, four shots back of Cink. It was HV3’s first Top 5 of the season, and a step in the right direction for a player who has struggled this year. If it wasn’t for a sluggish third round where he lost strokes ball striking and tee to green, he really could’ve put a scare into Cink on Sunday.
Despite that poor 18-hole stretch, Varner gained nearly 6.5 strokes on the field tee to green at the RBC Heritage. His iron play really stood out the most as he gained more than two shots on approach in both the opening and closing rounds alone. He’ll pair up with Brendan Grace, who also had a good week striking the ball but faltered on Saturday.
Sometimes a week that appears to be an “off” week from a player can highlight their elite talent level just as much as when they win. In my eyes, that was the case for Collin Morikawa, who never seemed to be able to put everything together at the RBC Heritage, yet finished in a tie for seventh.
The reigning PGA Champion was in the final pairing with Cink on Sunday, and just simply couldn’t get anything going, especially with his short game. He would lose strokes in nearly every metric in the final round. Despite the poor Sunday, Morikawa still gained 2.89 strokes tee to green per round, with 2.6 of that coming on the ball striking side.
Through his short time on TOUR we have learned that Collin is a threat to win nearly every time he tees it up. This week at TPC Louisiana, he will peg it alongside Matthew Wolff, who is working to turn his game around. They will make for one of the more talented duos this week, especially if they can get things going on the greens.
There won’t be a whole lot of hatter around Sam Burns‘ results at RBC Heritage because he finished below the middle of the pack of players that made the weekend. That result doesn’t tell the full story, and a partner event could be just what the doctor ordered for Burns, who has shown to be quite streaky in his play.
Burns had 17 birdies and an eagle on the week in his T39 finish, which speaks to his scoring ability. HV3 and Corey Conners had 19 birdies on the week and no eagles in their Top 5 finishes. Obviously, the scoring ability is there for Burns, which also plays out in his tee to green stats where he gained strokes in every metric. The biggest issue for the former LSU Tiger was avoiding the big mistake, which led to 11 bogeys and a double on the week.
He will now head to a tournament in his home state, still looking for his first TOUR win. He’ll partner up with Billy Horschel, who won this tournament in 2018, and might be just the right combination of ham to Burns’ egg.