Fantasy Golf: Zurich Classic preview

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Jim Furyk returned to the winner’s circle after almost five years away at last week’s RBC Heritage and a similarly big story can be expected in week three of our Fantasy Golf Game with a stellar field confirmed for the Zurich Classic.

Messrs Rose, Johnson (Dustin), Day, Fowler and Horschel are all chasing victory at the 7,425-yard, par 72 TPC Louisiana this week. Just west of New Orleans, this Pete Dye design wends through wetlands and features tall oaks, ponds and over 100 bunkers. Despite those dangers, though, it ranks as one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour, with generous landing areas and true greens offering ample scoring opportunities.

The tournament itself has been staged under various guises since 1938 with TPC Louisiana hosting it nine times since 2005. A 13-under-par score has been the minimum requirement in that time with the last three winners registering 19 and 20-under totals. The event has given seven of the last 10 winners their maiden Tour victory including Billy Horschel in 2013 and Seung-Yul Noh last year. Its undulating putting surfaces has seen this course labelled ‘a second shot test’ in most quarters and the South Korean proved the point in 2014 – finishing fourth in greens in regulation and fifth in proximity to the hole for the week.

The rough is longer than in previous years so scoring may be tougher and, with rain possible over the first three days, the longer hitters and expert scramblers could come to the fore. Here’s my line-up this week…

Justin Rose, £4.5m
Runner-up at the Masters showed the Englishman is returning to form after a stilted start to the season. Never lower than 15th in his last three visits here and his fine all-round game should see him go close again.

Jason Day, £4.5m
Seven cuts from seven starts since the turn of the year including a win (Farmers Insurance) and two other top-10s. First appearance since a disappointing 75 on Masters Sunday but his game is perfectly suited to this test – fifth in driving distance and 11th in greens in regulation on the PGA Tour.

Dustin Johnson, £3.0m
Five top-10s in his last six starts including a win (WGC Cadillac) and sixth at the Masters. His prodigious length off the tee (he’s five yards clear at the top of the PGA Tour’s driving distance rankings) could be the difference if the rain comes this week.

Brendan Steele, £1.0m
Consistency personified with no missed cuts since last year’s Open at Hoylake. Has enjoyed a couple of weeks off since the Shell Houston Open and he was eighth in Texas the week before that. He’s 14th in driving distance, 17th in average scoring and has made the weekend on both starts here.  

Will Wilcox, £0.7m
Only three Tour appearances in 2015 but he made the cut in all of them and is a good outsider to continue first-timers’ fine record in this event. Sixth in greens in regulation and 15th in proximity to the hole this term. Was 34th here last year in his rookie season when a final round 75 curtailed his progress.

Lucas Glover, £0.5m
Nothing of note and plenty of weekends off since the turn of the year but the former US Open Champion showed signs of improvement last week, finishing 18th at the RBC Heritage. TPC Louisiana is not a dissimilar challenge and Tour rankings of fourth (greens in regulation) and fifth (proximity to hole) can see him to another good finish.