PGA Hot Picks for the Zurich Classic

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The 2021 RBC Heritage saw Stewart Cink shoot 16-under through the first two rounds and never look back as he cruised to a four-stroke victory over Harold Varner III and Emiliano Grillo. The tour now turns to Louisiana for the 2021 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the only tournament on the PGA Tour that is a team event.

The format consists of 80 teams who play a round of best ball and alternate shot before the field is cut down to 35 duos.

The Saturday round is once again best ball before they close out with another round of alternate shot on Sunday. It is the only event on the PGA Tour that does not have any implications on the Official World Golf Rankings or the FedEx Cup standings. There was no event in 2020, so the reigning champions are Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer who held off Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia in 2019.

Course Breakdown and Weather
The Zurich Classic is played at TPC Louisiana which is a 7,425 yard, par-72 layout that sets a point of emphasis on second-shot approaches and par-4 scoring. In the three years that this event has been a team event, we have seen winners like Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt use their short games to win at 100-1, but also Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer using their ball striking to hoist the trophy. The weather will play a factor this week with wind ranging from 10-15 mph throughout the tournament with scattered thunderstorms expected on Friday and Saturday. It is likely that a delay will occur at some point on the weekend, but nothing too extreme that would push a round into the next day.

The Favorites

The defending champions, Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer (+750) headline the odds board as co-favorites with Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (+750). Next in line is former champion Cameron Smith partnered with Marc Leishman (+1000).

Young stars Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff (+1200) are going to be a popular pick this week, but Morikawa is playing his third straight week and appeared to show some fatigue on Sunday when trying to chase down Cink. Wolff is fresh off a disqualification at the Masters for signing an incorrect scorecard and a couple of missed cuts so avoid the noise they will gain throughout the week.

The first pair worth a bet is Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler (+1200).

Watson won this event back in 2011 when it was a stroke play event and Scheffler has played well recently with a runner-up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finishing tied for 18th at the Masters.

Watson has the familiarity and Scheffler has the ball striking for this duo to find themselves at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday evening. The rest of the favorites on the oddsboard have not shown enough over the 2021 season to suggest that they are worth a bet at under 25-1 odds.

The Picks:
Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler

Best Value Plays

The middle tier has a couple of interesting play opportunities, starting with Harold Varner III and Branden Grace (+2800). Varner is fresh off a tie for second-place finish at the RBC Heritage that was the highest of his PGA Tour career. He boasts some of the best ball-striking abilities on the Tour, but often finds himself making erratic mistakes that come back to haunt him, such as going out of bounds with his first drive last Sunday before coming back to shoot a sizzling 66. In comes Branden Grace, who is a very similar type of golfer who won the 2021 Puerto Rico Open at the end of February. They have the ball striking to go low in Best Ball and if they can hit the right alternate shots on Friday and Sunday, they could bring home the hardware.

The next pairing worth a bet is Max Homa and Talor Gooch (+3500). Homa has a win already this season at the Genesis Invitational and credited much of his win to Gooch, whom he was paired with on Sunday. The two friends were able to distract one another feeling too much pressure on the large stage and make some birdies. Gooch finished tied for fifth at the Players Championship in March and has made five consecutive cuts.

These two are capable of catching fire for four days in a row down in Louisiana and winning the whole thing.

The next twosome worth a bet this week is Doug Ghim and Justin Suh (+5000). Ghim has made two consecutive cuts and finished tied for 33rd at the RBC Heritage. Suh is 23 years old and has not earned his PGA Tour card yet, but is well on his way. He could be poised for a breakout performance this week. Both golfers are very streaky, but when playing best ball and alternate shot that can lead to a plethora of birdies and even eagles, which makes these two worth a bet at 50-1.

The Picks:
Harold Varner III and Branden Grace
Max Homa and Talor Gooch
Doug Ghim and Justin Suh

The Longshots

The first pair of longshots worth wagering consideration is Jason Kokrak and Pat Perez (+6000). Kokrak had strung together three consecutive top-10 finishes prior to finishing 49th at The Masters. Kokrak won the CJ Cup last October for the first PGA Tour title in his career and has played great since so there is no reason why he cannot win another one this week. That brings us to his playing partner, Pat Perez, who missed the cut at the RBC Heritage after making three consecutive cuts. The 45-year-old Perez is past his prime, but he can still play some good golf.

The twosome is going to have a ton of fun playing together this week and sometimes that leads to some great golf.

The final twosome worth a longshot is Chase Seiffert and Matthew NeSmith (+10000). Seiffert has made five consecutive cuts, as well as registering a third-place finish at the Honda Classic. Matthew NeSmith has made the cut in seven of his last nine starts, offering evidence that both golfers are playing well as of late. Both have displayed great iron play, which will help more in the alternate shot portion than best ball, but could give them a chance to make up some ground. Although they do not have any high finishes as of late, they are playing well enough recently to be worth a shot at 100-1.

The Picks:
Jason Kokrak and Pat Perez
Chase Seiffert and Matthew NeSmith

The Matchup Play of the Week

The matchup play of the week is the Aussie pair of Smith and Leishman to finish ahead of the two young guns in Morikawa and Wolff. Morikawa and Wolff are getting a lot of buzz due to the fact that they are in their early twenties and are only a few years removed from regularly playing team golf back in college. The timing is the issue for them this year, as Wolff is not playing remotely close to his best golf and Morikawa can only carry him so much in his third consecutive week of play.

These two are a fun pairing, but this year will not be kind to them.

That brings us to their matchup against Smith and Leishman, two ball strikers playing at the top of their respective games right now with Leishman in contention at Augusta and Smith in contention at the RBC Heritage. Not to mention, Smith won this event with Jonas Blixt back in 2017. Expect Smith and Leishman to be around the top 10 all week, while Morikawa and Wolff are going to be fighting to make the cut.

The Picks:
Smith/Leishman over Morikawa/Wolff
Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.