After weeks of playing every man for himself golf, the world’s best will be pairing off for team golf at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Last year, Aussie Cameron Smith and Swede Jonas Blixt teamed up to collect their first PGA Tour wins.
Since declining participation and other contributing factors had reduced the Zurich Classic to a bit of an after thought event, the tournament and Tour decided to switch things up a bit, introducing team golf last year.
I mean, you’ve got to do something when you’re having an issue drawing players to the Big Easy, right?
This year’s crop of two-man teams is impressive to say the least — and colorful.
Among the twosomes teeing it up are the Patrick’s — Reed and Cantlay, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, Jason Dufner and Pat Perez, Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar and, of course, Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt return to defend their crown.
So — which duo will boom and who will bust? Here’s a look at those who’ll be livin’ large in the Big Easy and those who’ll find things a bit more difficult:
Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar — The team I’m looking out for this week is the one of Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Sure, Kuchar is in the throws of arguably his worst season on Tour in about a decade — but teaming up with Bubba this week could be just what the doctor ordered. It’s not like Kuch has been terrible — just off. Bubba has already won this year and is playing well. If Kuch can do what he needs to and the personalities don’t clash, both could find themselves hoisting the trophy this week.
Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay — If you don’t have this pairing circled, highlighted, earmarked — whatever, then you’re insane. You’re an insane person. There’s not really a formula (yet) for what makes a great pairing in a four-day event like this, but I’m willing to take a chance on the guy who just gritted his way around Augusta National and plays his best golf in the Ryder Cup — and the wunderkind who has broken through for his first win already this year and posses all the talent that Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas do.
Cameron Smith/Jonas Blixt — Why not? The cracked the code here last year to collect their first — and to date, only — PGA Tour wins? Nothing says they can’t do it again? This time around, Cameron Smith is in the middle of a campaign that could really introduce him to the masses in grand form. He’ll win again and win on his own soon. Blixt is player who has proven he can play well and do it on big stages. While he isn’t carrying the form that Smith is, he’s still good enough to pull his weight on the bayou.
Sam Saunders/Matt Every — In things like math and language, double negatives can make a positive. In golf, they certainly don’t. While anyone can win any week (obviously) the odds, trend, karma, juju — whatever you want — doesn’t improve when you take two slumping/under achieving players and pair them together.
Wesley Bryan/John Rahm — You’d think I’d be all in on a team that featured fiery Spaniard John Rahm, but that’s not the case. This week, Rahm is pairing with Wesley Bryan — a PGA Tour winner in his own right — but who hasn’t really been bringing the heat recently. I think Rahm’s competitive fire and the fact that he will likely be carrying this two-some could lead to a loss of focus and, perhaps a few more errant shots than you can afford playing in a two-man scramble against the best players in the world.
Rory Sabbatini/John Daly — I want nothing more than to see John Daly win again on the PGA Tour but not if it comes at the cost of Rory Sabbatini getting one. I’m not Tiger apologist, but ever since Sabbatini talked trash to Tiger, sported a cowboy hat and got demolished by Woods, I’ve disliked him intensely. Sorry, long John. Realistically, these two are just here to smash beers and enjoy New Orleans — which does seem fun.