2023 Zurich Classic Picks, Odds: Bet Xander Schauffele & Patrick Cantlay, More Predictions
Via Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele of the United States Team walk the fourth hole during Saturday afternoon four-ball matches on day three of the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Country Club on September 24, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Welcome to Zurich Classic of New Orleans week – aka, the PGA Tour’s annual member-member tournament, or member-guest in a few specific instances.
This event ranks as one of the more fun weeks for the players and (probably) one of the least fun weeks for golf bettors, as the winner’s odds have shortened every year – perhaps not a coincidence as the competitors have continued to figure out this team format.
|Year||Winner||Pre-Tourney Odds (via golfodds.com)|
|2022||Patrick Cantlay & Xander Schauffele||9/1|
|2021||Marc Leishman & Cameron Smith||12/1|
|2020||N/A (Event Canceled)||N/A|
|2019||Ryan Palmer & Jon Rahm||16/1|
|2018||Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy||40/1|
|2017||Jonas Blixt & Cameron Smith||100/1|
There’s an excellent chance that these descending numbers could continue trending in the same direction this week, with the defending champions owning a shorter price than last year, when they were second on the pre-tourney board. That means more Patrick Cantlay in our television broadcast window this weekend, which in turn means more talk about a certain narrative.
Let’s get right to the elephant in the room – or the, uh, turtle, if we’re using the animal analogy.
On at least a few occasions during each PGA Tour season, slow play rears its ugly head. There usually has to be a perfect storm for this to make waves – groups of three instead of two; tricky, windy conditions; and an already-slower player in serious contention on the leaderboard.
That’s exactly what took place at the RBC Heritage.
One week earlier, Brooks Koepka called out Cantlay following the final round of the Masters, saying, “The group in front of us was brutally slow. Jon [Rahm] went to the bathroom like seven times during the round, and we were still waiting.” In response, Cantlay explained prior to the opening round at Harbour Town, “We waited all day on pretty much every shot. We waited in 15 fairway, we waited in 18 fairway. I imagine it was slow for everyone.”
I’ve long held the belief that slow play on the golf course is like traffic on a highway. Everybody hates when it happens, and nobody believes they’re the culprit.
On Sunday, Cantlay was in the final grouping with Matt Fitzpatrick and Jordan Spieth. It would be unfair to simply state that they played in five hours and 13 minutes without also pointing out that they essentially kept pace with the group ahead — just as it would be unfair to only place the blame on one player in the group.
Of course, even this discussion brings up the somewhat existential question which can easily be asked of any social media-based issue these days: Why do we even care?
For years, I’ve been of the opinion that these pros are playing for big money and points and all of the other spoils that come with success, so they shouldn’t be rushed around like they’re playing speed golf. (And before you bring it up, the answer is no, the PGA Tour doesn’t have a responsibility to help ensure pace of play at your local muni, where hackers are trying to replicate what they watch on TV.) Being a golf fan isn’t a chore, so watching it for a little bit longer shouldn’t be considered such a burden.
Or so I believed.
Then I started watching this year’s Major League Baseball games.
We can, of course, differ on this opinion, as well, but I’ve found baseball to be immensely more enjoyable at a faster pace. These games have held my interest longer and kept me more engaged as a fan than the usual early-season contests, which almost always lasted longer than three hours.
This is an entertainment product more than anything, just like PGA Tour events.
And perhaps fixing one has led to the spotlight on how broken the other really is.
Unlike baseball, golf doesn’t need to create new rules to speed up the proceedings – they’re already in place, but they just aren’t fully enforced. I’ve heard all sorts of ideas about how penalties need to be assessed, but honestly, I’d rather see the powers-that-be work with the players than against them.
Most of what the PGA Tour has changed over the past year, especially the idea of bringing the game’s best players together on a more regular basis, has helped create a more enjoyable product for the fanbase. Now it’s time to get the membership to understand that a quicker pace of play is similarly necessary to continue this momentum.
None of this is meant to solely impugn Cantlay, but with his team serving as the favorite this week, it would be hard to believe they won’t be right there at the end – and similarly hard to believe that this narrative won’t rear its ugly head once again.
On to the picks for New Orleans, where you’ll never guess whom I’m picking.
Outright Winner (Short odds)
One team to win the tournament
Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (+300)
I’ve already started a theme here in the preview of analogies which might or might not make any sense, so I don’t see any reason to stop now. If you were playing a game of one-on-one against Giannis Antetokounmpo, well, you’d lose. In fact, you’d get slaughtered. But maybe … maybe … you could heave up some one-handed shot over his outstretched hand, and it somehow clatters around the rim and drops in, just for a single point.
OK, well now try this: You and a buddy decide to take on Giannis and, say, Luka Doncic in a little game of two-on-two. Does it get easier? Of course not. Even if the Greek Freak is befuddled by your defensive tenacity, there’s a good chance Luka should help him out. This is an extreme – and not completely congruent – example, I realize, but there does exist an underlying point here: The range in talent with two superstar teammates playing at an elite level exponentially increases over the competition.
Cantlay and Schauffele are each coming into this event playing some very strong golf. If this was an individual tournament, they’d both be among the favorites. If they were paired with less-talented players, they’d still be among the favorites. Together, though, there’s even more strength in numbers. Is there value in this outright price? Not even a little bit, but this week is less about finding value and more about being realistic.
Pick: Schauffele & Cantlay Outright +300
Outright Winner (Long odds)
One team to win the tournament
Sam Saunders/Eric Cole (+18000)
If we’re playing the Cantlay/Schauffele team at such low odds, then we’re probably not littering the outright card with many other selections. I don’t mind taking a chance on these longtime buddies, though. Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, has found some recent momentum on the Korn Ferry circuit, with three top 10s in his last five starts. Eric Cole, meanwhile, has shown that he can play at the highest level.
A big secret to making picks for this one is identifying the teams who already have a connection versus those who were thrown together by process of elimination. This one certainly fits the former category.
Pick: Saunders & Cole Outright +18000
Potential selections for one-and-done pools
Sahith Theegala/Justin Suh (+3000)
I’m in a bunch of different OADs, which means I’ve seen a bunch of different ways of handling Zurich selections – from a draft to skipping it altogether. The most popular way is that you pick one individual player, which means you can take the lesser player of a team, then essentially double up on his partner by using him elsewhere, as well. In this particular instance, we can use Suh – who’s a very solid player in his own right – and save the hard-charging Theegala for another start.
Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler (+2900)
I’m using the same strategic thought process here, as you’ll likely want to use Beau Hossler and save Wyndham Clark. These are two guys known to get hot with the flatstick, so there’s some thought they could pile up birdies, especially in the best-ball format.
One team to finish in the top five
Si Woo Kim/Tom Kim
It took two-and-a-half days for International Team captain Trevor Immelman to pair these guys at last year’s Presidents Cup, but they responded with a Saturday afternoon four-ball victory over Cantlay and Schauffele. Even though Tom Kim has struggled for much of this year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him feed off his countryman and try to replicate that success over the American duo this weekend, as well.
One team to finish in the top 10
Joel Dahmen/Denny McCarthy
Sticking here with my main themes of strong putters and matched partnerships. As mentioned earlier, this is essentially a member-member, so let’s treat it as such by going after the guys who like to have a little fun playing golf.
One team to finish in the top 20
David Lipsky/Aaron Rai
I thought these two were so well matched for this event last season that throughout the past year, I’ve often linked them together in my previews. There are a ton of parallels between their games, as they each hit a lot of fairways and greens and have experience winning on the international level.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS lineups
Kurt Kitayama/Taylor Montgomery
I absolutely love this team, especially for the four-ball format, as each player is known to play a bit aggressively and can make birdies in bunches. If you’re skipping over the top of the board for outrights, this team is worth a look, but they certainly make for an intriguing DFS selection either way.
A medium-priced option for DFS lineups
Brendon Todd/Patton Kizzire
Considering his penchant for hitting fairways, Todd is a solid partner for a player who can fill up the card with circles and Kizzire fits that profile, currently ranking 33rd in birdie average this season.
A lower-priced option for DFS lineups
Brandon Wu/Joseph Bramlett
They didn’t play together at Stanford University, as Bramlett is 35 and Wu is 26, but that’s still a connection which could reap some benefits. Each has played some nice golf this year, though not necessarily in the last month or so, which is keeping both the price and interest level from getting too high, but this is an intriguing buy-low spot.
One team to post the low round Thursday
Austin Smotherman/Harry Higgs
Once again, I want a tandem that’s having fun and riding some momentum. Remember: The opening-round format switched to four-ball back in 2018, so it’ll take a low number. Two years ago, 62 shared FRL honors; last year, it took a 59.
One team who should beat comparable players
Tom Hoge/Harris English (+3700)
If you’re looking for a solid pair of iron players who should thrive in the alternate shot rounds, look no further than these two guys. While they’ve never paired together in this event, English is a three-time winner of the partnered QBE Shootout, and Hoge won it this past year, so they’ve each shown a propensity for playing well with others.
Also Receiving Votes
Other players who should provide value
Thorbjorn Olesen/Nicolai Hojgaard (+4600), Victor Perez/Thomas Detry (+3700), Davis Riley/Nick Hardy (+4600), Chesson Hadley/Ben Martin (+7500), Kevin Tway/Kelly Kraft (+34000)
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