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Can Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry overcome the Zurich 'curse'?

May 07, 2024
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Chris Graythen

This afternoon, in the lazy days before the Wells Fargo Championship kicks off and we start to get excited about next week’s PGA Championship, Shane Lowry had a few interesting things to say about his experience winning the Zurich Classic two weeks ago with Rory McIlroy. In particular, he thinks both of them can use it as a launching pad.

"I feel like we played golf with a lot more freedom that week and I feel like it's a lesson for the two of us for the rest of the season to go and play golf how we played that week in New Orleans," Lowry said. "I feel like if we can do that, we both can be dangerous in the big tournaments. I just think the whole week of playing golf with a smile on your face, playing golf with a little bit of freedom goes a long way in this game."

In analyzing these comments, we decided to take a look at past winners of the Zurich Classic to see if there's a trampoline effect. Can winning a team event propel you along for the rest of the season?

We're sorry to say, Mr. Lowry, that the results are dismal.

The team format at the Zurich started in 2017, with Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt winning in a playoff. Neither one of them won again that season, and Blixt has not won again on tour.

Turns out, that result is not uncommon. There have now been 14 winners of the team event (the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID), and of those, 12 have not won again that season. (Note that two of those 14 are McIlroy and Lowry, who have barely had a chance to win again, but we're including them to juice our numbers.) And there was plenty of time to win again, as each Zurich Classic has been held in late April.

(As if to prove the curse is real, four of the 14 runners-up in the event have gone on to win later that year, including three of the last four.)

More shockingly, six Zurich winners—Blixt, Scott Piercy, Ryan Palmer, Marc Leishman, Nick Hardy, Davis Riley—have not won again on the PGA Tour.

Now, if Lowry and McIlroy want to win again this year, there are two exceptions from which they can take some solace. When Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay won in 2022, each managed to ring the bell at least once more. Cantlay won the BMW Championship and Schauffele captured the Travelers and the Scottish Open. They also went 2-1 together as a pair in the Presidents Cup that year.

And while current LIV golfers Cam Smith and Jon Rahm couldn't win again on tour that same season, they did go on to win major championships after taking the Zurich.

In other words, it's not hopeless. But at age 37, with his previous last tour win at the 2019 Open Championship and his last big win period at the 2022 BMW PGA Championship, Lowry fits the profile of a guy who may have just had his last hurrah. This isn't exactly scientific—it's more like the opposite of that—but we'll be keeping a close eye on the two Irishman as 2024 plays out, and we learn firsthand whether they're the next data points supporting the Great Zurich Curse.