Sports Betting Weekly


When: Thursday, 23 April 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Zurich Class of New Orleans
With the first major of the year now done and dusted, action on the regular USPGA Tour will resume in Avondale, Louisiana this weekend as the Zurich Classic of New Orleans sees several big names who fell just short in Augusta return to competitive action.

Dating all the way back to 1938, this will be the 69th staging of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans despite an almost decade-long hiatus between 1949 and 1957, but this is only the tenth occasion that the event has been played at TPC Louisiana in all that time.

Originally debuting at the course in 2005, the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina forced the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to relocate to its previous venue, English Turn, the following year and it did not return to Avondale until the site was restored to its former glory in 2007.

Built on 250 acres of what used to be swampland, TPC Louisiana is a Bermuda grass Pete Dye design that features 71 bunkers and a full 20 acres of sand spread across its 18 holes, with water also in play on eight of those holes. Despite the obstacles, however, the course is not considered very difficult and last year was an absolute birdie-fest that saw 10 of the 18 holes average under-par for the week.

This year, a period of wet weather has softened up the course considerably – which may prove slightly advantageous to big hitters off the tee – but in truth, you don’t need to be an absolute bomber to flourish at TPC Louisiana as the venue is generally considered to be a second-shot-and-beyond course.

The stats certainly bear this out in the past decade, with seven of the nine winners at TPC Louisiana ranking in the top ten for Greens In Regulation (GIR) and four of the last five champions all posting putting averages inside the top ten also. All this adds up to the venue being a great place for outsiders to flourish as the relatively easy course layout and the greater emphasis placed on GIR and putting means that – for once – form tends to win out over all-round ability and class in Avondale.

No better is this fact demonstrated than by the number of players that have broken their UPSGA Tour duck at TPC Louisiana, with last year’s champion, Seung-Yul Noh, being the seventh Zurich Classic of New Orleans winner in the space of a decade to win their maiden title at the new venue.


As we mentioned previously, there are a number of players among the field at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans who will have some lingering regrets from the Masters in Augusta two weeks ago – and by some strange coincidence, three of them happen to be the bookmakers’ favourites here.

Leading the pack at 8/1 is Dustin Johnson, who has played at TPC Louisiana just once before, when he missed the cut back in 2008. Johnson was certainly in the mix at Augusta a fortnight ago, but in truth he never really looked likely to close the gap on Spieth and he’ll be eager to shrug off that disappointment and get back to his best form here in conditions that will favour his big driving game.

Behind Johnson at identical odds of 11/1 apiece are Jason Day and Justin Rose, though such a short price on the former certainly marks him out as a risky proposition. Day has played at TPC Louisiana twice before – finishing 32nd in 2009 after missing the cut on his debut 12 months previously – and will certainly get plenty of support here, but you have to question why he is nestled in the top three.

Day had a peculiar Masters in Augusta – a course of which he is known to be a huge fan – and it is something of a mystery as to why his game deteriorated so badly following an opening round 67. True, the Australian is known for his strong driving game and has already won a PGA title this year, but it remains to be seen whether he is capable of bouncing back from such a disappointment here.

Of perhaps more interest is fellow 11/1 shot Rose, who – compared to the other two market leaders at least – is something of a TPC Louisiana veteran. The 30-year-old has appeared at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on seven previous occasions, with a couple of missed cuts and a 43rd place result five years ago being overshadowed by a decent set of 10th, 15th and 8th finishes in the past three years.

Though, like Day, he will be disappointed that he didn’t push Spieth a little harder at the Masters two weeks ago, his previous record at TPC Louisiana suggests that he’ll have little trouble getting back into his groove at this year’s renewal and if he can avoid another slow start – a problem that has blighted him on several occasions already this season – he could be a force to be reckoned with here.

Rounding out the top six candidates are Ricky Fowler at 18/1, Keegan Bradley at 22/1 and Harry English at 25/1 – and of the three, it is Bradley who arguably warrants the most attention. The US pro came close to winning the event last year before imploding with a triple bogey during the final round, and if he can avoid making a similar mistake this time out, he should be right up there again.


Having covered the market leaders in detail on a course that we have already acknowledged favours the underdogs, it’s now time to delve further down the outright winners list and pick out some longer-odds candidates that merit our attention; starting with Sean O’Hair at a big price of 45/1.

The 32-year-old arrives at TPC Louisiana in a confident frame of mind, having last week finished solo sixth at the RBC Heritage to continue his 2015 renaissance. Key to his success at Harbour Town was O’Hair’s par-4 performance – where he led the entire field in scoring – and such tidy approach play will be crucial here, as will his strong underlying stats for birdie average and strokes gained putting.

Below O’Hair in the pecking order at odds of 50/1 is Morgan Hoffmann, who arrives at this year’s Zurich Open of New Orleans in much better form than he has done in recent renewals. Hoffmann has posted two top 10s in his last three starts – including a T9 finish at last week’s RBC Heritage – and has finished in-the-money on both of his previous appearances here (T21 and T34), making him a strong candidate for success who also has decent putting stats and ranks well in driving distance.

Descending into even longer odds territory, there are a trio of golfers teeing off at three-figure prices who certainly look like viable each-way candidates this weekend. First up is Troy Merritt at 100/1, who arrives at this year’s renewal in blistering form having finished third at the RBC Heritage and sixth at the Valspar Championship last month. Merritt also came third at TPC Louisiana in 2010 and is known to be a fan of the course, so with momentum on his side, he looks over-priced at those odds.

After Merritt, Kyle Reifers is another golfer currently turning heads at long-odds prices of 100/1. True, the 31-year-old hasn’t achieved a great deal at the top level, but we know from his 2006 Chattanooga Classic win that he does have some pedigree and recent 11th place finishes at the Shell Houston Open and the Valero Texas Open suggest that he usually saves his best golf for the South of America.

One final player worthy of consideration is Jonas Blixt at 125/1, the longest price in this article. The Swedish golfer is a class act who finished fourth and second in his first two majors – and though his form dipped after a strong end to 2014, he looks bound to be back in contention sooner rather than later. Having finished inside the top 30 in Houston and Augusta in recent weeks, Blixt is currently showing signs of returning to his best form and is an excellent putter who could easily flourish at Avondale.