Leishman & Smith hang on, Oosthuizen's brutal block and Finau avoids the asterisk victory
It went in the water, but it was a good shot is usually a phrase reserved for 15-handicappers who finally make great contact, only for their ball to get wet anyway. On Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, though, it was a thought that crossed Marc Leishman’s mind after his partner, Cameron Smith, rinsed one from the tee at the drivable par-4 16th at TPC Louisiana.
“I mean, he hit a really good shot,” said Leishman, who wound up hitting the most momentous shot of the entire week soon after Smith found the water. “It sounds silly, but it was the right shot, it just drifted a little in the wind. I wasn’t walking up there thinking I wanted to give him a jab in the ribs or something, I was just concentrating on the next shot.”
That next shot proved to be a decisive one, as Leishman took his drop from just off the green and chipped in for birdie, giving he and Smith a share of the lead at 21 under. From there, a bit of a pillow fight ensued between Team Aussie and Team South Africa—Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel—down in the stretch in the nervy alternate-shot format.
The two duos made matching bogeys at the par-3 17th, then matched with pars at the par-5 18th. Back at the 18th tee for the first hole of sudden death, Oosthuizen’s tee shot found the water, and he and Schwartzel were pretty much dead from there, Smith eventually holing a six-footer for par to capture his second team win in this event, the last coming alongside Jonas Blixt in 2017.
No offense to Blixt, but winning alongside a fellow countryman was extra special for Smith.
“I guess I’m good at picking good partners,” Smith said. “He carried me this week. No, that was really cool. We had such a good week on and off the golf course. We stayed together all week. The boys were with us all week as well. It was just such a cool week. Something I’ll never forget for sure.”
The win, which counts as an official tour victory, is Leishman’s sixth, his first since the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open. Smith now has three, two at the Zurich and one at the 2020 Sony Open.
Four other takeaways from Sunday at the Zurich Classic.
That was a brutal block cut from Louis Oosthuizen
The man with (arguably) the sweetest swing on the planet, one that often produces a right to left ball flight that makes peons like us salivate, hitting a block cut in sudden death was legitimately shocking to see. That would have been painful enough for Oosthuizen in a regular tournament, but to do it in alternate shot with your fellow South African and buddy Charl Schwartzel is crushing. We’ve all played team golf in some capacity, be it for $5 at your club on Saturday or for millions of dollars on tour, and we all know that incredible sinking feeling of letting down your teammate. Luckily, Oosty is well-accustomed to the runner-up life and won’t lose too much sleep tonight, as long as he has his trusty mattress with him.
We see you, Peter Uihlein
How’s this for your last five professional starts: second (KFT), T-22 (PGA Tour), MC, Win (KFT), third (PGA Tour). That’s the line right now for Peter Uihlein, who is attempting to get back full status on the PGA Tour. The 31-year-old is running pure right now, and his solo third with Richy Werenski in New Orleans gets him into the field at Valspar, where he can keep trying to rack up FedEx Cup points. The strong result this week vaulted him to 149th in the FEC race, and he’ll need a few more finishes like that to make a push for top 125. He has not made the postseason since 2018.
Tony Finau avoids the asterisk win
As unfair as it would have been, a team event victory for Tony Finau would have definitely been asterisk-worthy. He and Cameron Champ were in prime position on Sunday, and you know Finau would have fielded endless “Is this the same as a solo win?” and “Do you feel like you’ve actually ended your victory drought?” questions had they won. Again, not fair ones, but that would be the reality.
Welp, shoutout to alternate shot, because it bit Champ and Finau in the butt in the final round and now Finau won’t have to deal with any bogus asterisks. Unless, of course, he goes another full year without a win and wins next year’s Zurich. Entirely possible. We’d set his over/under of top-10s during that span at around 9.5.
That was the best crowd yet
Yes, we know fans have been back for a decent while now, and events like the Players and the WGC-Dell Match Play look and sounded somewhat normal. But give the Zurich Classic crowd credit, they were very loud and very into it on Sunday, making an otherwise forgettable tournament feel big down the stretch. Guess that’s just the New Orleans difference. Between Sunday at Zurich, Saturday night’s full capacity UFC event in Florida, and baseball stadiums starting to fill up as the weather gets warmer, it’s starting to feel like sports truly on their way back, which not a single soul is complaining about.