Horschel, Piercy ready to defend Zurich Classic title as Scott, Day team up for improving event
It's a new year, and the relatively new format at the Zurich Classic is a hit. Now the PGA Tour stop in New Orleans will have a new trophy for its two-man championship team as well.
NEW ORLEANS – Year 1 of the new format for the Zurich Classic was a trial run.
The format passed the initial test.
Year 2 was a clear improvement over Year 1 and the buzz grew louder about an event that was, in all candor, one of the low-end stops on the PGA Tour, despite a great city, great organization, great sponsor, a great purse and great hospitality.
Now, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at the TPC Louisiana is a desired destination for many of the top professionals in the world entering Year 3 of the Tour’s only team format event April 22-28 in Avondale.
First, changes on tour dates have helped this year’s event.
THE PLAYERS Championship has been moved up on the calendar, taking place this week at the TPC Sawgrass.
Then, this year’s Zurich Classic is right after Easter.
It is an event which improves annually, thanks to Zurich, the Fore!Kids Foundation and the efforts of its CEO, Steve Worthy.
Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy return to defend their title of a year ago. Horschel has won twice in Avondale, clearly one of his favorite courses and stops on tour.
Does chemistry play a large role in the success of pairings in the tournament?
“If anybody putts as well as Billy did last year, they’ll win,” Piercy laughed. “We get along well, we’re kind of the Ying and Yang. I like to cut, he likes to draw. A lot of the holes I don’t like to hit tee shots on he likes so we mesh well that way,” Piercy said. “
“Having someone you like being around on the golf course plays a massive part into it,” Horschel said. “Obviously, you’re going to be out there for five or six hours every day. You know your partner is going to hit some bad golf shots. You’re just going to have to deal with it. You’ve got to enjoy being with the person you’re with.”
Horschel has become a big promoter for the event.
“The first two years have been well received by the players,” Horschel said. “Everyone talks about it, there’s a lot of guys who enjoy it. There’s a lot of guys from over in Europe that want to come and be a part of it as it is just a fun event. I’ve talked to some of the big name players like Phil (Mickelson) and Tiger (Woods) and a couple of other guys who haven’t played in it yet to try to entice them to play. I know they would love to but it just hasn’t worked in their schedule.”
Piercy feels the event provides a little bit of a mental break for players.
“You can kind of rely on your partner,” Piercy said. “You’ve still got to be there but it is sometimes nice that you don’t have to grind the whole day. There’s a little bit of an ease to having a partner. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be there but you don’t have to be there as much.”
Horschel, who won here in the singles format in 2013, feels right at home in New Orleans.
“It’s been a great connection. When you’re in SEC country,” said Horschel, a University of Florida alumnus, “it doesn’t matter where it is, it just feels like you’re home even though you may be in another college team territory. It’s a second home to me. It’s a great spot to come to every year.”
Worthy unveiled a new trophy for this year’s classic, a Waterford Crystal with a fleur de lis design.
The tournament has landed a pair of prominent teams who will participate, including the duo of Adam Scott and Jason Day, both of whom are former world No. 1 players. It will be Scott’s first time playing the New Orleans tournament.
Also committing are the teammates on last year’s victorious European Ryder Cup squad, Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia.
“We are very closely trying to align ourselves with international team play, the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup,” Worthy said. “Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who played the last two years here, they were a regular team in the Ryder Cup (last year). The international teams are looking at ways to use our event as a prep.”
Worthy feels very good about the eventual field that will participate in the field.
“I think we’re going to see a number of team changes,” Worthy said. “A number of guys seem to be changing partners. We have a number of players that we expect to play but do not want to announce them until they are firmly committed.”
The tournament is on solid ground after last year’s announcement that Zurich has extended its agreement with the New Orleans tour stop through 2026, with a new, successful format and with a course that is gaining more acceptance annually from players. The talk of moving to the Bayou Oaks course at City Park has calmed over the last year.
“We are very happy with the TPC Louisiana and foresee being there for a while,” Worthy said. “We’re very proud of the results and we are looking forward to another great year.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…