The value of course form will be tested this week with tournaments in the United States and Europe taking place on courses that have now been used for a number of years. The Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour has been played at TPC Louisiana since 2005 and the Trophee Haasan is being played at Royal Golf Dar es Salam in Morocco for the fifth year in succession. Each course demands specific skills for good scoring and course form is an important element of a payer’s profile. Generally current form and course form identify leading contenders and there are some standout selections this week. The winners from last year are competing this week.
However, the waters are muddied in the Zurich Classic because it is now a team event having changed format in 2017. There are 80 teams of two players, chosen from the Tour rankings and from the Tour membership or a sponsor’s invitation. The format is stroke play but better ball in the first and third rounds and alternate shots in the second and fourth rounds. The leading 35 teams and ties make the cut. The defending champions are Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy and the first winners were Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith. Both former winning teams are playing together again this week.
The TPC at Louisiana was a new course when it first hosted the Zurich Classic 13 years ago. It presents a good all-round test and the big hitters do not dominate despite the course being 7,425 yards in length. The Bermuda greens are below average in size and there are numerous fairway bunkers and over 70 pot bunkers which guard the lay-up areas. Wind can often be a factor but in benign conditions the course is vulnerable and pin positions are used to protect the scoring. The two winning scores have been 22 and 27 under and there has been one playoff and a winning margin of one stroke.
Playing ability and skills are important but the team dynamic has been added to the mix. A partnership must gel and players must accept their team mates mistakes. Blixt and Smith have won in the format and both are players in form. Horschel and Piercy have played well at different stages of the season but other teams are preferred. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are major champions from South Africa who finished third last year. Oosthuizen is in the better form but his partner is suited to the course and the compatriots can prevail this year. They have played together as individuals and in the President’s Cup so have the right chemistry.
The Trophee Hassan is a regular stroke play tournament over four rounds with a cut after the first 36 holes. The defending champion this week is Alex Levy who has not played on tour since the start of March. Levy won his fifth European Tour title last year but lack of a recent outing will count against him. It’s difficult to defend a title and a break from competitive action is a further negative. Conversely Levy will be fresh and will relish the tough challenges of the host course. Course form may prevail over current form and Levy can contend again.
However, in terms of winning Levy might come up short and Joost Luiten is a viable alternative. The Dutch player was tied ninth last year with four rounds at or below par. Luiten was 10th for greens in regulation for which Levey was fifth and the runner-up was third. The par 72 track over 7,632 yards is relatively long but there is a premium on accuracy over distance but big hitting is still important. Luiten combines both skills and his course form makes him the selection in Morocco.
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