Mickelson man to beat at Zurich Classic
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 Zurich Classic of New Orleans | Preview | 26 Apr 2006
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans returns to the venue where it was staged for sixteen years prior to leaving for a new venue last year. The TPC of Louisiana, where twelve months ago Tim Petrovic won his first USPGA Tour event, was so badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina last year that the event has been forced to return to the interestingly named, English Turn Golf & Country Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus.
English Turn was given its name as a result of the English, who were engaged in a battle with the French in the area in the late 1600’s, being forced to turnaround back down the river (Mississippi) when they were led to believe the French forces were stronger then they actually were.
The course carries Tifdwarf greens and 419 Bermuda fairways and measures a relatively short 7100 yards.
Phil Mickelson will play this year after missing the tournament last year. He was runner up to Vijay Singh in 2004 at his last appearance after the Fijian produced a last round of 63 to catch and pass him on Sunday. Mickelson is of course the winner of his last two events, one of those wins at the BellSouth was by a stunning 13 shots and the other the Masters. Mickleson is in rare form and given that he has been runner up at this course twice in five starts, it will surprise if he is not in the firing line on Sunday.
Retief Goosen is playing for the first time but like Mickelson he is close to the peak of his form. Goosen has finished 4th, 2nd and 3rd at his last three starts in 2006 and despite a two week break he looks the man most likely to challenge Mickelson who, at number two in the world, is ranked only one place higher than the South African.
Stuart Appleby was so dominant last week that it is hard to imagine that form not carrying over to this week especially given that this event is played on his favoured Bermuda greens. Most of Appleby’s career wins have come on warm season grasses. He has had the occasional good finish here with two top twenties in four starts.
David Toms has won here previously and being a local he is likely to warm to the task of playing well in front of what is likely to be a big crowd as the event looks to draw attention away from the trials and tribulations of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Toms missed the cut at the new course last year but back at English Turn he might be more suited. His current form is of concern however having missed three of his last four cuts.
Stephen Ames has played very well in this event with three top tens in five starts and as a player good enough to win against arguably the best field assembled in 2006 at the Players Championship, this field should hold no real fears. After a slow start to the year Ames has played well in his last four events and even after his win at Sawgrass he was able to back it up with an impressive 11th at Augusta.
Chris DiMarco is highly ranked coming into this event but he has not played well since injuring his rib two months or so ago and that is the concern. He has had three top tens at English Turn but, like Toms, his current form is lacking.
Scott Verplank, Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover and Padraig Harrington could also be worth a look at longer odds.
Of the Australasians other than Appleby, Aaron Baddeley lines up after his two good recent weeks. He has missed the cut both times here but he is clearly a better player now. John Senden, Stephen Leaney, who is improving but is here for the first time, Mark Hensby. Mathew Goggin, Gavin Coles, Greg Chalmers, James Mclean, Craig Perks and Steve Bowditch make up the balance of those from down under.
The tournament carries an impressive US$6 million purse.
Photo – Anthony Powter