The third week of the PGA Tour’s post-Masters swing takes it to TPC Louisiana for the Zurich Classic. The event has been running for a long time, but this will be just the second year that the course will be hosting a unique team format that combines two rounds of alternate shot with two rounds of best ball.
In a field with no shortage of big names, here are the teams that deserve the closest of looks this week:
1. JUSTIN THOMAS / BUD CAULEY
The World No. 2 Thomas is the highest ranked player in the Zurich field, and he returns to TPC Louisiana with his friend Bud Cauley. The two formed a great team last year in this event, especially on best ball days, where they posted a 64 and a 61 on their way to a T5 finish.
Thomas has two wins and a runner-up in just 10 events this season, and while Cauley’s resume is unsurprisingly not comparable, he is coming into the week playing well, with finishes of T23, T18, and T14 in his last three starts.
Cauley has actually been the better of the two on the greens this year, so even if his name is 117 spots later than Thomas’ on the Official World Golf Rankings, he should still be a valuable contributor to one of the most feared teams.
World Ranking Total: 121 – Justin Thomas (2), Bud Cauley (119)
2. JUSTIN ROSE / HENRIK STENSON
A power pairing for the last two European Ryder Cup teams, Rose and Stenson, who won gold and silver respectively at the 2016 Olympics, had a shocking missed cut in this event last year.
With Rose being on fire since last September and Stenson coming off three consecutive finishes inside the top 6, including a T5 at The Masters, it is more than highly improbable that they replicate their disappointing 2017 result.
World Ranking Total: 20 – Justin Rose (5), Henrik Stenson (15)
3. BUBBA WATSON / MATT KUCHAR
After a mediocre 2017 by his standards, Bubba Watson has bounced back in an incredible way, especially over his last five starts where he has two victories and two other top 10s. In his most recent start, he placed T5 at The Masters, bouncing back from an opening 73 with three consecutive sub-70 rounds.
TPC Louisiana represented Watson’s best 2017 finish, as he and J.B. Holmes teamed up for a T5, at a course where Watson was the solo champion back in 2011.
Bubba’s partner this year is the always-steady Matt Kuchar. Between the two of them, they have every part of the game covered, making them one of the field’s best bets.
World Ranking Total: 39 – Bubba Watson (18), Matt Kuchar (21)
4. PATRICK REED / PATRICK CANTLAY
All eyes will be on this marquee pairing, as Reed will be making his first start since winning The Masters three weeks ago. Cantlay was not quite as good at The Masters, where he missed his first cut since 2014, but he is still coming off a strong performance, posting a T7 the following week at the RBC Heritage.
As a duo, Reed and Cantlay got off to a scorching 68-62 start last year, which had them in second place at the 36-hole mark. They ended up finishing T14 after a rough third round, but at the time, it was a slumping Reed’s best result since January.
Both of these players are different golfers than they were a year ago, and Reed is always a horse in team competitions.
World Ranking Total: 45 – Patrick Reed (11), Patrick Cantlay (34)
5. JORDAN SPIETH / RYAN PALMER
Spieth’s first outing since what was nearly the best final round in major championship history comes at a place where he shined last year, as he and fellow Texan Palmer posted three rounds of 66 or better to finish in solo-fourth place.
Palmer has not been the best version of himself in 2018, missing four of six cuts since he was the forgotten man in the Jason Day – Alex Noren six hole playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open back in January, but really this team is going to go as far as the World No. 3 Spieth takes them.
World Ranking Total: 118 – Jordan Spieth (3), Ryan Palmer (115)
6. SERGIO GARCIA / RAFA CABRERA-BELLO
Team Spain will be making their Zurich debut in this format, and they hope that consolidating their talents will get them back on track, as both Sergio and RCB are ice cold as of late.
After a phenomenal start to 2018, Sergio had a disastrous Masters defense and then missed the cut at last week’s Valero Texas Open, despite having been a consultant in the construction of the host course. Cabrera-Bello has gone T38-CUT-T36 over his last three starts since an impressive T3 at the WGC-Mexico.
They’re both too talented to not turn things back around soon; they might as well do it while paired together.
World Ranking Total: 35 – Sergio Garcia (10), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (25)
7. CAMERON SMITH / JONAS BLIXT
The defending champions made a spectacular pairing last year, complimenting each other perfectly. Blixt has been quiet this year, but the same was true last year, and Cameron Smith has been significantly better, with eight finishes inside the top 25 of 12 starts this year, including a recent T5 at The Masters.
The 24-year-old Smith is now ranked 40th in the world, and is showing nearly every week that no field is too strong for him.
World Ranking Total: 287 – Cameron Smith (40), Jonas Blixt (247)
8. JON RAHM / WESLEY BRYAN
Wes Bryan showed a lot of game in 2017, but the 28-year-old has been a disaster in 2018. His only finish inside the top 30 this season was a T27 in a 34-man event, and since January, he has missed five of six cuts, with his only weekend coming in a T42 defense of his 2017 RBC Heritage title.
Now, just barely on the fringes of the top 100 in the world, Bryan is desperate to get his results trending positively. Fortunately, he was smart enough to team up with World No. 4 Jon Rahm for the Zurich Classic.
Rahm has been a little up-and-down this year, but seems to have his A game back in his last two starts: a victory at Spanish Open and an impressive fourth-place finish at The Masters.
World Ranking Total: 102 – Jon Rahm (4), Wesley Bryan (99)
9. JIMMY WALKER / SEAN O’HAIR
Team Momentum had their best outing of the season at last week’s Valero Texas Open, with O’Hair finishing runner-up, and Walker finished solo-fourth. It had to be especially promising for Walker, a former major champion with six career victories, as he continued his best stretch of play since 2016, before Lyme Disease took him down.
Walker led the Valero field in birdies for the week and was sensational with his putter on Sunday. O’Hair now has finishes of T12 or better in three of his last five outings.
World Ranking Total: 164 – Jimmy Walker (81), Sean O’Hair (83)
10. KEVIN KISNER /SCOTT BROWN
Kisner was a one-man wrecking crew at last year’s Zurich, carrying his team into a playoff and nearly knocking off a team that went bogey-free for the entire tournament. He is coming back around too as of late, with a T7 and a runner-up among his last three starts.
Brown’s game has been in shambles since the fall series, but if he doesn’t hold back Kisner too much, this duo could easily find their way back into contention.
World Ranking Total: 174 – Kevin Kisner (24), Scott Brown (154)
Credit: Getty Images, OWGR, PGA Tour Media