Zurich Classic Betting Preview: Finding Value in a Different Format
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The PGA Tour takes a break from its regularly scheduled programming to bring us the Zurich Classic — the only team event of the season. TPC Louisiana will play host to the unique event in New Orleans. Let’s take a closer look at the format and course before diving into some potential futures values.
Teams of two will combine forces for two rounds of alternate shot and two rounds of best ball. It’s comparable to the first two days of the Ryder Cup — except this is stroke play instead of match play. Best ball will be played in the first and third rounds, while the second and final rounds will be alternate shot. Some of you may recall that order was flipped in last year’s tournament.
The tournament will start with 80 teams of two players, which will get reduced down to 35 and ties after the first 36 holes.
While the winners will get many of the same perks that come with winning a standard tour event, the tournament does have a little less serious feel heading into the week.
The idea of “walk-up” music when teams walk to the first tee @Zurich_Classic is incredible. Admittedly I spent too much time reviewing the list of songs players chose. IMO you can’t go wrong with Pearl Jam https://t.co/dm8sVxiltL
— Dave Cordero (@davecordero) April 24, 2018
TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye design, checks in at 7,425 yards for a par-72. Like most Dye courses, the drive can be nullified on some holes. As a result, we’ve seen a variety of players win on this course in standard stroke-play events.
Bubba Watson bombed his way to victory in 2011, but short-hitting plodders such as Brian Stuard and Jerry Kelly have also won in recent years.
As with any team event, the guys who can make birdies in bunches will have the best shot. That means the tee-to-green game will be critical. Last year, 27-under was needed to make the playoff. You can expect a winning score in the mid-to-high 20s under par once again.
The unique competition has drawn some of the biggest names in the sport. And, for the first time in more than 30 years, New Orleans will see all four current major holders: Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed.
In total, the field will contain 10 of the top 15 players in the world. However, only two — Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson — will team up. Spieth, Thomas, and Reed all return with their partners from last year in Ryan Palmer, Bud Cauley and Patrick Cantlay, respectively.
Sergio Garcia will form an all-Spanish duo with Rafael Cabrera-Bello, while Jon Rahm teams up with Wesley Bryan for the weekend. Also, Jason Day and fellow Australian Ryan Ruffels will join forces after playing the tourney last year with different partners.
With Rose and Stenson forming the only super team, it makes sense that they are listed as the betting favorites. Bovada priced the duo at +650 — the only team with odds under 10-1. The tournament didn’t treat the stars well last year. Not only did Rose and Stenson miss the cut, but the co-favorites, Day and Rickie Fowler, also failed to make it to the weekend.
Since no clear-cut style has dominated the winner’s circle in recent years, I will focus on undervalued overall talent.
I’ll be starting my card with Team Spain: Garcia and Cabrera-Bello. Garcia is the No. 10 player in the world, while RCB checks in at No. 25. Only the Stenson/Rose pairing has a lower combined ranking. However, you can find the Spanish pair at a much more valuable 20-1 price. With six other teams lower on the odds sheet, I think the overall talent of the Spanish duo is being undervalued in the market.
I also fancy the English duo of Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Paisley at 35-1. Fleetwood is a top-15 player and Paisley sits inside the top 100, but their odds are on par with much less talented squads.
Fleetwood has played well for the past few months, while Paisley comes in under the radar. He actually had a stretch of three straight top-fives on the Euro Tour a few months back. I rate the English pair as one of the top-five teams in the field. Considering they are being priced well outside the top 10, there is value there for sure.
The whole tournament has a bit of an exhibition feel, which lends itself to lower motivation levels for the top players. Consequently, it may be a good week to focus on some of the long shots. Just look at last year, when Cam Smith and Jonas Blixt cashed in this tourney at 100-1.
In contrast, the motivation will be there for most of the teams in the long-shot range, as a victory means a two-year tour card and a spot in the PGA Championship.
I have personally targeted a 100-1 shot on Sam Burns and William McGirt, who fit the mold of Smith and Blixt. Burns plays the role of the young up-and-comer looking to break through, while McGirt brings the steady, veteran presence. Burns, in particular, has had a really solid spring. He’s won on the Web.com Tour and made three straight cuts on the PGA Tour. I think they are worth a shot at 100-1.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 24, 2018
Pictured above: Sergio Garcia