Zurich Classic of New Orleans picks: Expect another great week from Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown
The PGA Tour's post-Masters malaise is still in full effect, but that's nothing a little action can't fix. This week the tour heads to New Orleans for the Zurich Classic, which has employed a two-man team format since 2017, with each round alternating between best ball and alternate shot. That makes it one of the harder tournaments to bet on, as there is really no way of knowing which teams will mesh well since they only do this once a year.
That said, our experts are very high on Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, a duo that is now making its third appearance together at Zurich. Their first two tries, while they didn't end in victory, were both very successful weeks.
Our expert picks this week, just like every week, includes a PGA Tour caddie offering insight from the range and putting green of this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; two of the most respected fantasy golf experts in the industry, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
One thing to definitely keep in mind for the Zurich? Stay away from the favorites. This is the type of random event that you can take a flier on team with some sexy odds and hit it big. Even the team of Brown and Kisner, which has finished runner-up and T-15 the last two years, is going off at 33/1 odds. Read on to see why that number might be too juicy to not touch this week in Nawlins. (Note: Because of the team format, there are no DraftKings or FanDuel lineups this week)
2019 Zurich Classic Picks To Win (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed (13-1)— Cantlay has been playing some incredible golf all season with six top-10 finishes in just 11 starts, including a third last week in Hilton Head and a ninth the week before at the Masters. His worst finish in the nine events in which he’s made the cut was 17th at the Safeway Open. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks through again. For his part, Reed hasn’t shown great form this year, but there’s no denying that he has a knack for showing up in team events. That could be a dangerous combination for the rest of the field this week in New Orleans.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (34-1)— Playoff losers year one. Leaders going into the final round last season. With over 300-plus rounds played together, there’s no team in this field who has as much experience in this format as pals Brown and Kisner. Plus, this is the best Kisner’s form has been leading up to this event in the three years of the team format. It would have never happened, but if Captain Jim Furyk was truly concerned about winning, regardless of the blow back he would have received, this pairing would have been nails for that Le Golf National set up at last year’s Ryder Cup. The fact they’re not priced among the favorites in this field just shows how little attention bookmakers are paying to this event.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes (17-1)— Watson had great form at TPC Louisiana back when it was a stroke play event, and he grades out well on Pete Dye courses overall. Holmes does, as well, but to a lesser extent. The 221B Baker Street duo played together in 2017 and finished fifth.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed (13-1)— My model gives the Patricks the best chance to win this week, and their history in this event also suggests a breakthrough. While this appears to be an odd couple, they finished T-14 in 2017 and then improved to T-7 2018. Cantlay has been hot of late, and he could bring the best out of Reed in a team event, his favorite type of setting.
Golf Digest editors: Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (34-1)— Pat didn't have to sell us on this duo, but his input certainly furthered our case as well. These two have to be as hungry as any team to win this event, given the fact they probably should be back-to-back winners already. With the way they are both playing of late (Kisner has finished outside the top 30 just once since January. Brown finished T-7 at Valero), they should come in quite confident as well. At 34-1, this squad is impossible to pass up.
(Results on the season: We’ve correctly predicted five of the season’s 22 events. Pat Mayo has correctly picked Bryson DeChambeau (12-1, Shriners); Matt Kuchar (60-1 at the OHL Classic) and Phil Mickelson (25-1 at Pebble Beach). Golf Digest editor Christopher Powers correctly picked Kevin Tway (55-1) to start the season at the Safeway Open. Lou Riccio called Rickie Fowler's win (16-1) in Phoenix. And Brandon Gdula, who picked Dustin Johnson at the Masters, along with Mayo and Riccio, now has four picks of his who have finished runner-up.)
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the Zurich Classic (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Jhonattan Vegas and Abraham Ancer (34-1)— I’m not sure why, but these guys could fit very well together. They’ve both got ball-striking and putting covered. Vegas is on a nice stretch of five events without a missed cut and a best finish of T-3 at the Players in that stretch. He’s also well rested having not played since the Valero Texas Open, one week before the Masters. Though Ancer arrives in New Orleans after a missed cut in Hilton Head, he’s been enjoying a solid season. Along with two, top-10 finishes, Ancer also had a T-12 at the Players. I just feel like these guys are going to be extremely comfortable together.
Mayo: Cameron Champ and Sam Burns (70-1)— Gaining an average of +6.56 strokes-gained/putting over his past three event on Bermuda greens, former LSU Tiger Sam Burns’ flat stick could be the key to unlocking Cameron Champ’s elite driver. Champ returned a week ago from injury at Heritage, with little success, but having a partner who can stick wedges off your drives and make a few putts makes them an elite squad in alternate shot.
Gdula: Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes (75-1)— Whereas some pairings seem a bit random, these Canadians are friends, and each grade out inside the top 50 in strokes gained/approach over the past 100 rounds, via FantasyNational.com. They missed the cut together last year, but Conners is playing superbly well, and Hughes has fared well at Pete Dye courses so far.
Riccio: Brice Garnett and Chesson Hadley (90-1)— My model actually gives this team the seventh best odds to win this week at Zurich. This is the type of under-the-radar duo that could find themselves in contention on Sunday with a chance at a big breakthrough victory for the both of them.
Golf Digest editors: Kevin Tway and Kelly Kraft (160-1)— After winning his first start of the year at the Safeway (which we called at 55-1, no big deal), Tway fell off a cliff. Prior to the Masters, he had missed seven of his last eight cuts, with the only finish, a T43, coming back in February at Torrey. But he flashed at the top of the leader board at Augusta early in the week, eventually finishing T-36 in his first Masters appearance. That should give him a little boost, as will playing alongside his good buddy and proud #TeamGainz member Kelly Kraft, who has quietly finished inside the top 10 in two of his last seven starts. We already hit big on Tway once this year, let's make it a second time this week, because my FanDuel account could use some GAINZ.
Teams to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia (17-2)— On paper, a solid pairing of two European Ryder Cup teammates. But the fact are the facts: ball-striking can only get you so far. At some point, one of these guys has to get hot with the putter. I’m not sure that happens for the pair this week at TPC Louisiana.
Mayo: Jason Day and Adam Scott (13-2)— Nothing against the Aussies, but this event has produced 100-1 winners the first year, and 40-1 champions in year two, without any of the heavy favorites been in the mix at all. Backing the favorite seems like a low percentage play this week. With full tour cards and a spot into the Tournament of Champions next season on the line, the Zurich Classic simply means more to the middle tier and deeper odds players in the field. Plus, a team event is super random, so just don’t back favorites. Make it easy on yourself.
Gdula: Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley (17-1)— Finau and Stanley have more than 20 yards of average driving distance between them on the season, which could make second shots a bit wonky when they’re alternating shots. The favorites offer some more sensible pairings, making this duo one I’m not considering backing.
Riccio: Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy (17-1)— I have the defending champs well outside my top 10 of teams to win this week. With those odds, it's not worth backing a team to go back-to-back.
2019 Zurich Classic: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy (+100) over Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer (Sportbet)— Billy Ho and Piercy are the defending champs and are surely ready to go. Rahm and Palmer are sort of a surprise pairing with neither of their previous teammates in this event (Wesley Bryan for Rahm; Jordan Spieth for Palmer) playing this time around. Rahm and Palmer had more work to do in the beginning of the week to figure out their strategy, while Horschel and Piercy are already on the same page.
Mayo: Chris Stroud and Jason Kokrak (-120) over Jim Knous and Adam Hadwin (Sportbet) — Just ride Kokrak. He’s been so close for about two months now, and maybe injecting Steady Stroud into the equation is exactly what he needs to get over the top.
Gdula: Jhonattan Vegas and Abraham Ancer (+114) over Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel (FanDuel)— Ancer and Vegas are each top-16 in strokes gained/off the tee and drive it close to the same distance to hep with the second-shot angle. They’re a balanced pair and offer value at these odds.
(Matchup results last week: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Branden Grace over Charles Howell III); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Matt Kuchar over Jordan Spieth); GD Editors: 1 for 1 (Matt Kuchar over Patrick Cantlay); Riccio: 0 for 1, PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1
(Matchup results for the year: Riccio: 8-6; PGA Tour Caddie: 8-7; GD Editors: 9-6-1; Mayo: 7-5-2; Gdula: 6-7-1.)
Top 10 (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (+410)— This tandem won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2017 – the first year it was a team event. Jonas hasn’t had a great season to this point with just two top-25 finishes in 15 starts – the best of which was a T-15 at Riviera. Smith, meanwhile, had been fairly solid (T-9 at Torrey, T-6 at the WGC-Mexico) until a little rough patch in his last five starts. I just feel they’ll find some positive energy together this week at a place where they know they can get the job done.
Mayo: Colt Knost and Boo Weekley (+1750)— With two top six finishes in his last four starts when Zurich was a solo event, Boo Weekley returned to the tour off injury and smacked the hell out of the ball at Harbour Town. The T-25 was a solid finish, but if his putter had complied just a little, he wouldn’t have been there at the end. Boo finished third tee-to-green in the field, but dropped almost three strokes on the greens. Also, suffering through injuries, Knost gained on both driving and approaches a week ago, and has flashed a propensity for extended birdie streaks in the past. In a format where two rounds just allow you to pin seek, Knost can deliver in that type of low pressure situation.
Gdula: Chris Kirk and Sepp Straka (+7000) — Both Kirk and Straka have great approach play entering this event, as each rank inside the top 35 in that stat over the past 100 rounds. Kirk has played this event both years (missing the cut in each), yet has done well at Pete Dye courses. Straka shows enough that this pairing has value for a top 10.
Riccio: Joel Dahmen and Brandon Harkins (+880)
Golf Digest editors: Ollie Schniederjans and Adam Svensson (+1160) I like this top 10 value here for Ollie, who appeared to be turning corner with his game prior to getting DQ'd last week at Harbour Town. Let's see if that lights a fire under him as he looks for a similar breakthrough as Svensson, who has had his moments so far in his rookie season.
(Top-10 results last week: Mayo: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1; Riccio: 0 for 1; GD Editors: 0 for 1; PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 1)
(Top-10 results for the year: Mayo: 7 for 15; Gdula: 4 for 14; GD Editors: 4 for 14; PGA Tour Caddie: 4 for 15 Riccio: 3 for 14)
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily-fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the RBC Heritage.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.