It’s the final weekend of April, which means two things for the city of New Orleans:
- Jazz Fest is in full swing!
- It’s time for the PGA’s Zurich Classic!
Ok, so I daresay that more folks are jazzed [rimshot!] over Jazz Fest, and maybe rightfully so, but the Zurich Classic has its own charms that make it worth watching for fellow Golf Nerds, and even beyond.
The Zurich Classic is the PGA Tour’s only two man team competition of the season and offers up a refreshing change from the weekly stroke play grind of the Tour. The first two rounds will be played as team best ball, while the final two will be alternate shot.
From a viewing/excitement standpoint, this seems to be a bit back-assward. Ideally, best ball generally produces aggressive, pin-seeking play, with the added benefit of one’s partner being able to bail out the other if things go badly for the latter. Alternate shot, on the other hand, can be extremely nerve-wracking, as a player faces the additional pressure of not wanting to leave his partner in a bad situation.
With a number of the big names taking this week off (No Tiger, Phil, DJ, JT, Spieth), the odds are favoring the duo of Sergio Garcia and Tommy (Fairway Jesus) Fleetwood, two great ball-strikers who, based on their respective Ryder Cup team-play records, seem to be a natural pairing. There are some other interesting pairings work watching – Brooks Koepka will be teeing it up with his brother Chase (who, as his older brother once did, plays the European Tour), Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown return after being runners-up the past two seasons, and Jim Furyck has pulled David Duval out of mothballs (and the Golf Channel’s commentary panel) for the event.
I’ll be pulling for the team of Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt for largely personal reasons. Smith’s caddy is Sam Pinfold, to whom I was introduced by a friend of mine who housed him during the AT&T Byron Nelson. In addition to being a great guy, Sam persevered through a number of difficult circumstances before catching on with Cameron. He also is a roommate of Blixt, and suggested that Blixt partner with Smith two years ago. They wound up winning the Zurich that year in a sudden death playoff against the aforementioned Kisner and Brown, and Smith was so overcome with emotion that he could barely speak on air afterwards.
At the club level, there’s always an interesting dynamic when it comes to partner golf. My buddy Dave, he of the underappreciated hole in one, was probably my favorite tournament partner, most likely because our personalities on the course complemented each other so well. Dave tends to get down on himself a bit when things go south, to which my response is to get him a Miller Lite. We would ham-and-egg it pretty well.
But things don’t always go so smoothly. When paired with someone with whom I’ve not partnered before, I always (in a effort to relieve nerves) will say to him, “Now, there’s no need to say ‘I’m sorry’ out there. We’re both going to give it our best.” This is a great sentiment, but invariably I will mess up a hole and turn to him and blurt out, “I’m sorry.” I then feel like an idiot and things go downhill from there.
Still, I’ve won and lost both individual and team tournaments, and for me, the team experience is the most gratifying regardless of the result. There’s an old saying in golf that goes along the lines of, “Never talk about your round after you play. Half the people don’t care, and the other half wish you shot higher.” At least with a partner, you can celebrate or commiserate together.
And the drinks taste better.