Teaming up two elite PGA Tour golfers with a combined world ranking of 16 – one of whom is the reigning FedExCup champion, the other owns Olympic gold – sounds like a good recipe for success.
In fact, it came to fruition today in New Orleans, as Tour heavyweights Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The event dates all the way back to 1938, but this was just the fifth edition since it switched to the Tour season’s only official team event.
Held at TPC Louisiana, the result was very expected after the duo shot an opening 59 in best-ball on Thursday, and by the end of Saturday, had reached a record-destroying 29-under on Saturday, which broke the previous 54-hole record by six strokes. Even with a comparatively pedestrian even-par 72 in Sunday’s final round, played in alternate-shot format, they broke the team 72-hole record by two strokes.
Still, after it appeared it would be a runaway after a Saturday best-ball 60 that had them five clear of the South African team of Garrick Higgo and Branden Grace. That ended up not being the case.
Instead, the primary challenger was LSU star and local favorite Sam Burns and two-time Zurich champion (one time apiece individual and team) Billy Horschel.
Beginning the final day six strokes off the pace, Burns and Horschel played a clean front nine, carding three birdies to make the turn in 3-under 33.
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Cantlay and 28-year-old Schauffele had trouble getting their early footing with six pars to start the day, before an immaculate second shot on the par-5 7th set up Schauffele for an 8-foot putt that he sunk for eagle.
Still, there was no pulling away from the lead group. After consecutive bogeys on 9 and 10, both of which Schauffele later accepted the blame, Burns and Horschel – who had birdied 10 and 11 ahead of them – had suddenly pulled to within one shot.
A phenomenal 80-yard third shot from Schauffele on the par-5 11th landed less than three feet from the hole, which Cantlay sank for birdie, and a two-stroke lead.
Burns and Horschel were unable to get any closer. Burns’ tee shot on the par-4 16th landed in the water, and while they were able to convert for par, it took away one of their last opportunities. They would bogey the very next hole, and more or less end their chances.
Schauffele and Cantlay did bogey the par-5 18th after Cantlay missed a 7-foot par putt, but that was cosmetic as Schauffele tapped in for the two-stroke victory.
It was the fifth career victory for Schauffele, who had not won on Tour since the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January of 2020, although he did win low gross at the 2020 TOUR Championship, and the gold medal at last summer’s (2021) Olympic Games in Tokyo. Cantlay, the reigning FedExCup champion and PGA Tour MVP, notched his seventh career victory.
Finishing in third place, five strokes back was the team of Doc Redman and Sam Ryder.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, making his first start since winning The Masters two weeks ago, his fourth victory in his last six starts, teamed up with 2019 Zurich champion Ryan Palmer, finished in a tie for 18th after a 1-under 71 on Sunday.
Zurich Classic Leaderboard
Pos-Team-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Schauffele & Cantlay -29 (E)
2. Burns & Horschel -27 (-4)
3. Redman & Ryder -24 (-5)
4. Riley & Zalatoris -23 (-6)
4. Bradley & Steele -23 (-5)
4. Varner & Watson -23 (-4)
4. Moore & NeSmith -23 (-4)
4. Rai & Lipsky -23 (E)
4. Higgo & Grace -23 (+1)
10. Wu & Lower -22 (-2)
10. Clark & Tringale -22 (E)
10. Scrivener & Day -22 (+1)
Pos-Team-To Par (Final Rd)
13. Lowry & Poulter -21 (-2)
14. Rose & Stenson -20 (-3)
18. Scheffler & Palmer -18 (-1)
21. Smith & Leishman -17 (E)
21. Hatton & Willett -17 (E)
29. Morikawa & Hovland -16 (E)
How Schauffele and Cantlay Won the Zurich Classic
Their record opening-round 59 made Schauffele and Cantlay the first wire-to-wire winners since the Zurich switched to a team format. A second-round 4-under 68 in alternate-shot kept them out front before an 11-under 60 in the third round, in which they birdied eight of the final nine holes put them at the 29-under number that nobody else was able to reach.
They came into the tournament already comfortable together in team events. The two played four matches together for the winning American team at the 2019 Presidents Cup, going 2-2-0, and played two matches together for the winning American team at the 2021 Ryder Cup, going 2-0-0.
What It Means For Schauffele and Cantlay
Believe it or not, Cantlay actually dropped in the world ranking despite this win. This event was “official” for a number of PGA Tour season purposes, but it did not grant world ranking points. The week that had been dropped from the current ranking (more than two years ago) was enough for Cameron Smith to jump Cantlay into fourth, with Cantlay now fifth, two spots below his career-best from just a few months ago.
Schauffele, meanwhile, stays at No. 12, after dropping out of the top 10 after The Masters two weeks ago. Schauffele had been in the top 10 since August of 2020.
With teams splitting FedExCup points in this event, Cantlay rose from ninth to fourth in the current standings, while Schauffele saw a rise from 52nd to 20th. Only Ryder (37 spots) and Redman (34 spots) saw a bigger jump than Schauffele’s 32.
At the very least, both players hope this victory will provide a jump start from a recent stagnation, particularly in Schauffele’s case. The two got to split a champions check for $2.4 million.
Sunday’s Stars at TPC Louisiana
The low round of Sunday’s alternate-shot action was the 6-under 66 shot by pair of 25-year-olds in Davis Riley and Will Zalatoris, the latter of whom is fresh off his second consecutive top-6 Masters finish. The duo was bogey-free and made a field-high jump of 15 places from T19 to T4. Riley has not quite made the early mark on Tour that Zalatoris has, but he did net his third top-10 finish of the season.
Also exploding into the final top 10 was the veteran pairing of Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele, winners of seven combined Tour events. Their 5-under 67 combined with their third-round 63 made them the low group of the weekend and jumped them ten spots from T14 to T4. The 67 was in spite of a four-hole front-nine stretch where they carded two bogeys and a double. They followed that poor stretch with six birdies in their next seven holes, including the first four on the back nine.
An even-par 72 might not stand out with the better scores of the day, but given that it came from Bill Haas, who ranks outside the top 500 in the OWGR, and his 68-year-old father Jay Haas, who beat the longtime Tour record of Sam Snead for oldest player in history to make the cut, it was phenomenal. They had three birdies to three bogeys and reached 12-under for the week, finishing T36.
Sunday’s Stumbles in New Orleans
Garrick Higgo and Branden Grace were hopeful for at least a good Sunday charge, as both were sitting outside the top 150 in the current FedExCup standings, but were able to make little happen, as a 1-over 73 dropped them from second to T4. The duo birdied the first three holes of their back nine, but gave all three back, with bogeys on 14, 15, and 18 to shoot the over-par round.
Also shooting a disappointing 1-over 73 was the Aussie pair of Jason Scrivener and former world No. 1 Jason Day. They were unable to manage a single bogey until the 11th, and their 73 dropped them seven spots from third to T10. The little-known Scrivener has made just a handful of Tour starts, mostly playing in Europe and Asia.
Given that they came into the week with a combined world ranking of 7, two-time major champion Collin Morikawa (2nd) and Norwegian star Viktor Hovland (5th), an even-par 72 was more than a bit of a disappointment. They were never under par at any point of their Sunday round and ended up dropping into a share of 29th place.
Defending champions Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman, also shot a 72, finishing in a share of 21st place. The two Aussies had three bogeys and a double in their final round.
“We kind of just plodded along. Today was probably the worst of our four quarters. Pat was calm, which helped me stay calm, and it has been a while since I’ve been in any sort of contention here, so it was probably just overall calmness and patience.”
– Xander Schauffele
“Today was a great day. We definitely bring out the best in each other and we really enjoy being out here together, and in a format like this, it’s the best.”
– Patrick Cantlay