Zurich Classic 2017

Round 4 - Jonas Blixt & Cameron Smith win playoff

May 2, 2017

Cameron Smith stood on the edge of the 18th green, wiping away tears at a ceremony complete with alligator skin championship belts and a silver chalice.

The 23-year-old Australian, the youngest and least accomplished player left on the course, had been painstakingly close to his first PGA Tour victory - from the final hole of regulation at the Zurich Classic on Sunday night through the fourth playoff hole Monday.

He kept his emotions in check long enough to stick a 58-yard lob wedge within 3 1/2 feet of the pin on the fourth playoff hole - the par-5 18th - and sink his birdie putt.

The sequence lifted him and teammate Jonas Blixt of Sweden to the first championship under the Zurich Classic's new team format. And it finally vanquished the feisty team of South Carolina residents Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown.

Kisner and Brown had rallied with a final round of 12-under 60 on Sunday, capped by a nearly 95-foot chip-in for eagle by Kisner as darkness fell Sunday night at TPC Louisiana.

''It was pretty cool to knock the putt in for the win,'' said Smith, who along with Blixt had missed potential winning putts from 9 to 10 feet on earlier playoff holes. ''I guess it would have felt a little bit different if Jonas had done it for my first win.

''To have a putt to win on the PGA Tour when you've been working toward it your whole life is a completely different feeling,'' Smith added. ''It felt like the longest (3 1/2-foot) putt I've ever hit.''

The Zurich Classic was the first team event on the PGA Tour since the Walt Disney World National Team Championship in 1981.

The tournament began with 80 teams and players choosing teammates. Many said they chose friends on the Tour rather than research whose game best complemented their own. The new format attracted half of the top 30-ranked players.

For most of the week, players raved about the relaxing conditions. They and their caddies could talk strategy, and players took comfort in knowing their teammates could pick them up. That was especially the case on the best-ball second and final rounds as well as the playoff - players played their own balls and teams took the better score per hole. In the first and third rounds, teammates alternated shots.

''You support each other and it feels good to have someone to lean on,'' Blixt said, nodding at Smith. ''Having a great teammate like him, it's a walk in the park.''

But, in the end, lining up a winning putt - with $1.02 million and 400 FedExCup points on the line for each winning player - wasn't much easier.

''I thought after winning twice (on the PGA Tour), it would be a little less nerve-racking trying to finish it off, but it still got me a little bit,'' the 33-year-old Blixt said. ''Doing it for the third time, I mean, this is the most fun one, I must say.''

Victory in the new format also meant invitations to The Players Championship and SBS Tournament of Champions. It did not, however, provide a Masters invitation or count toward world rankings.

Blixt and Smith never bogeyed any of the 76 holes on the par-72 course carved from cypress swamp west of New Orleans. They led by a stroke after two rounds and by four after three. They had fallen behind by two strokes, with Kisner and Brown birdieing 10 of their first 11 holes Sunday. But they rallied with birdies on Nos. 12, 15 and 16 to regain a one-stroke lead heading into the final hole of regulation, which they wound up having to birdie to force the playoff after Kisner's clutch chip.

Both teams finished four rounds at 27 under par.

Kisner and Brown took home nearly $412,000 each. They also had the lowest one-round score in team play with their 60, two strokes better than the current course record in traditional stroke play.

Kisner missed a 9 1/2-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole - also 18 - that could have won it.

''We were close, had a chance there and I just didn't get it done,'' he said. ''But we'll be back next year.''

Round 4 - Players set for Monday morning playoff

May 1, 2017

Kevin Kisner chipped in for eagle on the 72nd hole as he and teammate Scott Brown forced a Monday playoff with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Darkness was falling as Kisner's chip rolled across the green, hit the pin and dropped, with Australia's Smith responding with a birdie putt from inside two feet that kept him and Sweden's Blixt in the title hunt.

"I just told myself, get it there," Kisner said. "It's just one of those shots that you dream about."

Both teams finished regulation on 27-under par 261 after Sunday's better-ball round, in which Blixt and Smith shot 64 and Kisner and Brown carded a sizzling 60.

The tournament is the first US PGA Tour team event in 36 years. It featured two-man teams playing two better ball rounds and two alternate shot rounds.

Blixt and Smith -- who is seeking a first US tour title -- have barely put a foot wrong, finishing regulation play without a bogey.

They led after 36 and 54 holes, and withstood a furious charge by Kisner and Brown, who birdied 10 of their first 11 holes to grab the lead.

Six of those birdies came before play was halted for more than six hours as thunderstorms swept through.

With Blixt's birdie at 16 and Smith's at 17 the duo regained a one-shot lead.

It looked like that would be enough when Smith then gave himself a short birdie putt at 18.

But Kisner's chip-in means all four will return on Monday morning to settle things.

"Well, we knew we had to have it," Kisner said. "All I was trying to do was make sure I didn't leave it short, and I couldn't see much. I knew it was breaking a little right, and when it hit the flag, I said, 'Don't you come out of there.'

"I knew I was going to make it the whole time. No, I'm just kidding."

Blixt said he and Smith were confident in their games, so when Kisner and Brown mounted their charge "I wasn't really stressed out about it."

"Someone had to get hot in order to catch us today, and they did," Blixt said.

"We have another shot at it tomorrow," he added of the better ball playoff. "We just have to leave this behind and try to go out there and make birdie or eagle on 18 tomorrow and try and win this tournament."

Americans Kelly Kraft and Kevin Tway were third after combining for a 61 that left them on 265.

It was further stroke back to former world number one Jordan Spieth and fellow Texan Ryan Palmer, who carded a 64 for 266.

Round 3 - Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith stretch lead to four shots

April 30, 2017

The team of Australian Cameron Smith and Swede Jonas Blixt survived strong and gusty winds to open up a four-stroke lead after the third round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Saturday.

Smith and Blixt combined for a stellar four-under-par 68 in the demanding foursomes (alternate shot) format.

Avoiding any bogeys, and the healthy population of alligators that live on the premises, they posted a 19-under 197 total at TPC Louisiana, with two teams -- Charlie Hoffman/Nick Watney (69) and Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown (67) equal second on 15 under with one round left.

Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer had some putting problems, though they were not the only ones, to fall five strokes off the pace.

Though Smith and Blixt come from opposite sides of the globe, they are both now based in north Florida and were brought together by the Swede’s New Zealand caddie.

“I have a team mate I can trust. I know he’s going to get up-and-down if I miss it,” Blixt said after watching his partner roll in a 20-foot birdie at the final hole.

“It’s good to have a good mate by my side,” said Smith, returning the compliment.

Blixt is a two-time PGA Tour winner, while Smith, 23, is a former Australian Amateur champion who last November lost a playoff to Spieth at the Australian Open.

Spieth, perhaps the best putter in the world, was tormented by the gusting winds which contributed to him and Palmer missing several short ones.

“It’s very difficult out here with these grainy greens when you get the wind going one way and the hill and the grain the other,” the two-times major champion explained.

“If the wind gusts... even on a six-footer, you’re just trying to figure out where to hit it.

“You just have no idea what that putt’s going to do. It’s really a guessing game. I ran a few putts way too hard, almost trying to force them in, left my partner in a few tough spots.”

The final round will use the four-ball (best ball) format, which generally yields low scores because players can be aggressive.

Round 2 - Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith vault in to lead

April 29, 2017

Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith posted a 10-under 62 in Friday's four-ball format to move into the lead at the Zurich Classic, which is in its first year of a new team format.

Blixt and Smith have a two-day total of 15-under 129 to lead by one over Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay. The K.J Choi-Charlie Wi and Troy Merritt-Robert Streb pairings are tied for third at 13-under.

The four-ball format has each member of a two-man team playing his own ball throughout a round, with only the best score on each hole recorded. The same format will be used Sunday. The first and third rounds have an alternate-shot format.

The change from the alternate-shot approach produced much lower scores Friday.

The Zurich Classic was a standard individual tournament until changing formats this year. This marks the PGA Tour's first official team event since the 1981 Disney Classic.

Round 1 - Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer lead

April 28, 2017

World number-five Jordan Spieth and fellow American Ryan Palmer combined for a six-under-par 66 in alternate-shot play Thursday to grab a share of the lead at the PGA Zurich Classic.

Spieth sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 final hole to lift the Texas duo to the top of the leaderboard alongside Australian teen Ryan Ruffels and American Kyle Stanley at the TPC Louisiana course near New Orleans.

The event shifted to a pairs event this year with 80 two-man teams playing alternate shot in the first and third rounds and better ball format in the second and final founds.

"It looks like wind might pick up tomorrow afternoon, you never know," Spieth said.

"But alternate-shot format with these conditions, anything 3 under or so was a solid score. Grab a few extra and be in obviously pole position, it's fantastic," he added.

"We're just going to try and have as much fun as we had today. We'll get out there tomorrow and try to get as many putts as we can in the wind."

Spieth and Palmer birdied three of the last five holes, Spieth holing out from 36 yards at the par-3 14th and Palmer knocking in a five-foot birdie putt at 16 after having made a six-footer for birdie at the par-5 11th. They also birdied the course's other par-5 holes, the second and seventh.

Back-nine starters Ruffels, an 18-year-old born in Florida to an Aussie father, and Stanley, whose lone PGA victory came at the 2012 Phoenix Open, reeled off four consecutive birdies to begin their round, Stanley sinking a 19-foot birdie putt at the 10th and Ruffels dropping a 24-footer two holes later.

Stanley missed the green off the tee at the par-3 17th and then a 15-foot par putt for their first stumble, but they rebounded with a run of four birdies in six holes on the front nine, starting at the par-5 second and ending at the par-5 seventh.

But on their final hole, the par-3 ninth, Stanley again missed the green and a 22-foot par putt, the subsequent bogey leaving them on 66.

Sharing third on 67 were South Koreans K.J. Choi and Charlie Wi, Americans Ben Crane and Ben Martin, Aussie Cameron Smith alongside Swede Jonas Blixt and the US pair of Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney.

England's Ian Poulter, who lost full PGA playing rights last week, and Aussie Geoff Ogilvy were sharing 11th on 69.

World number three Jason Day of Australia and US partner Rickie Fowler were on 71 while Rio Olympic champion Justin Rose of England and runner-up Henrik Stenson of Sweden, the reigning US Open champion, were on 72.

Scores

T1 --
Jonas Blixt
Cameron Smith
-27 F -8 67 62 68 64 261
41 153 112
20 67 47
T1 13
Kevin Kisner
Scott Brown
-27 F -12 70 64 67 60 261
8 20 12
22 77 55
3 11
Kelly Kraft
Kevin Tway
-23 F -11 71 63 70 61 265
42 55 13
79 102 23