The Zurich Classic did an excellent factor a 12 months in the past when it switched from being simply one other ho-hum 72-hole stroke-play event in a sea of 72-hole stroke-play tournaments to a group format with two days of foursomes and two days of four-balls. The choice paid off so properly, in reality, that the sphere for this 12 months’s occasion was as sturdy because it has ever been, and on Sunday the event sponsor introduced it was extending its deal by 2026.
When it got here to walk-up music—one other new wrinkle this 12 months—it’s apparent a number of the kinks nonetheless must be labored out. The similar may need been stated in regards to the occasion’s choice this 12 months to flip-flop the format with foursomes (alternate shot) being performed within the second and fourth spherical, moderately than the primary and third like they have been a 12 months in the past. When it involves taking part in golf this fashion, there’s much more strain on the rivals however rather a lot much less alternative for a comeback with only one ball in play per group.
“When I was first told they switched the format I was against it,” Billy Horschel stated. “I said, ‘Why would we do that?’”
On one hand, it could eradicate the type of fireworks that four-ball can ship with birdies coming from all over the place. On Saturday whereas taking part in four-ball, 9 groups shot 63 or higher, together with that of Horschel and Scott Piercy, who have been one among two groups to tally a 61.
There was, after all, a motive behind the change.
“When I thought more about it I was like, ‘You know what? That’s actually really good,’ ” Horschel continued. “Because the better players, better teams, obviously are going to rise on Sunday.”
Which is what Horschel and Piercy, two shut pals whose video games play properly off one another, did within the remaining spherical at TPC Louisiana, combining to shoot a bogey-free 67 to win by one over Jason Dufner and Pat Perez.
Sure, there have been much more birdies a day earlier, and Horschel and Piercy’s 67 was the bottom rating of the ultimate spherical. But golf is at its finest when one of the best gamers on the planet are below as a lot strain as doable.
There’s additionally a sure poetry to watching one man hit it to the place the opposite man can rating from, like a superbly delivered Steph Curry cross to a man nobody else noticed open however him that results in a bucket. It’s equally memorable when the reverse occurs. (Who can overlook that notorious pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson by Hal Sutton on the 2004 Ryder Cup?)
Horschel, along with his draw, sturdy iron play and good placing, and Piercy, along with his fade, equally good iron play and terrific wedges, knew this is able to be the case.
“We both work with the same stats guy, and I know Scott’s a really great wedge player,” Horschel stated afterward. “He harped on me to get Scotty within 125 of the hole [and] you’re going to have no more than 10 feet.”
It helped, too, that Horschel had gained this occasion earlier than, in 2013 when it was a stroke-play event. The now five-time PGA Tour winner felt snug not simply with the format however the course and that helped Piercy chill out extra within the remaining spherical.
Of course, the swap didn’t work fairly as properly for others.
“You just never really get into a rhythm,” Charl Schwartzel stated. “Louis [Oosthuizen] came to me on No. 12, he said to me he’s only hit two iron shots for the whole day. I said to him, ‘Well, I’ve only hit two putts.’ So all of sudden it’s your turn to start hitting iron shots and putts, you don’t have a feel for the rhythm, the round, which makes it difficult.”
And they shot 68 with four birdies to open the back nine however completed two again.
“The hard part about playing foursomes on the last day is you don’t really get into a rhythm and a feel for the golf course,” Schwartzel continued. “On the 13th hole was only the third time I putted, so I had no real feel for the greens. And similarly, only two iron shots [for him] by number 12. It just worked out that way.”
It additionally labored out simply positive for Horschel and Piercy. So did one other outside-the-box choice by the event, which once more proved fascinating to look at down the stretch. But the efficiency of Horschel and Piercy and the symphony of pictures between them was maybe finest summed up by two different guys making an attempt to catch them.
“We didn’t lose it, we got beat,” Perez stated. “They played phenomenal, so hats off to ‘em. They did what they were supposed to.”
Added Dufner: “I’ve never lost an alternate-shot match in any of the team matches, so it‘s a good setup for me. Alternate shot I always feel good. Trying to chase these guys down all day, they didn‘t lose a tee all day, and that‘s pretty tough in alternate shot.”