Leishman-Smith survive late struggle to win Zurich Classic in playoff
With scoring good most of the week, the 2021 Zurich Classic of New Orleans turned out to be nothing more than survival for the two teams left standing at the end of regulation play.
With the Australian duo of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith struggling down the stretch, South African teammates Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel caught them in regulation.
Then, on the first sudden death playoff hole, Oosthuizen then hit his playoff tee shot squarely in the water to the right of the fairway with a poor drive which decided the outcome.
Smith calmly sank a par putt to clinch the victory.
Smith, who loves playing at the TPC of Louisiana, summed it up perfectly.
“It was pretty cool,” Smith said. “We played some really solid golf. That back nine was brutal but we hung in there and got it done.”
The win was the second for Smith in the Zurich Classic team event since the event became a team event in 2017.
In 2017, Smith teamed with Jonas Blixt to win the first team event format of the tournament, the first team event on the PGA Tour since 1981 so Smith has won two of the four team events played in Avondale.
Oosthuizen and Schwartzel were near or at the top of the leaderboard from start to finish of the event. Both major winners, Oosthuizen and Schwartzel looked to have the upper hand on the back nine before faltering late.
Oosthuizen birdied 15 while Smith bogeyed the hold, a two-shot swing to give the South Africans a one shot lead.
Leishman and Smith bogeyed 13, 15 and 17 down the stretch.
Smith hit his drive in the water on No. 16 but Leishman chipped in from the rough to for birdie with a brilliant shot while Oosthuizen and Schwartzel parred the hole and the teams were again even at 21 under par.
Leishman then missed a putt for par on 17 for another bogey but Schwartzel also missed a par putt to bogey and both teams were down to 20 under par going to the 72nd hold.
Leishman and Smith birdied 6-of-8 par five’s on the week but Leishman missed an 16-footer on the 18th green to par it, forcing a playoff.
That forced the two teams to play the 18th hole again in alternate shot fashion.
That is when Oosthuizen then hit his playoff tee shot squarely in the water to the right of the fairway.
Smith then hit his tee shot into a bunker on the left side of the fairway but Leishman hit a solid layup approach and the pair two-putted on the green for the win.
The win is the fifth professional victory for Smith and his third on the PGA Tour.
For Leishman, a former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, it is his 13th professional victory and his sixth on the PGA Tour.
The American team of Peter Uihlein and Richy Werenski shot a final round 5 under par 67 to finish at 19 under par 269, just one shot back.
Former LSU star Sam Burns of Shreveport and two-time Zurich Classic winner Billy Horschel shot a 69 and finished at 18 under 270, tied with the teams of Americans Keith Mitchell and Brandt Snedeker, along with Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele.
Defending champions Ryan Palmer and John Rahm played well, finishing up with a final round of 70 to check in at 17 under par, in seventh place.
The weather for the tournament was the best in recent memory, the best in years, with mild temperatures and some wind to deal with.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE 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 Sports Media Association, National Football…