T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans | Five players to watch
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.
It typically takes a score in the mid-to-high teens under par or better to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which starts Thursday at TPC Louisiana. Defending champ Billy Horschel was victorious in 2013 with a score of 20-under par.
Needless to say, it's a birdie-fest. The putter is going to have to be hot, but the irons are also going to need to be sharp in order to spy those birdie looks.
A solid field that includes 25 players who have won on the PGA Tour in the last two years, as well as several major champions, means it should be a shootout.
Here are five players you'll want to watch.
5. Ernie Els
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Fourth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Did you think I wouldn't pick the "Big Easy" in the Big Easy? Since that fourth-place finish in the Match Play, Els has been struggling mightily. His last six starts since have resulted in three missed cuts and a top finish of T43 at the Shell Houston Open. His last two starts in New Orleans look like this: T15 in 2013; and lost in a playoff in 2012. I think he'll find something in his game this week. It might not lead to a win, but it will snap the slump he's been in.
4. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Fowler is on a little roll right now. He tied for sixth at the Shell Houston Open and followed that up with a tie for fifth at the Masters -- his first top-10 at Augusta National. He'll be refreshed after taking last week off. Fowler tied for 10th at TPC Louisiana in 2012, which was the start of an incredible four-tournament stretch that saw him win the Wells Fargo Championship the following week, tie for second the week after that at the Players Championship and then tie for fifth in his next start at Colonial.
3. Keegan Bradley
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: The competitor in Keegan Bradley can't be happy about that missed cut at Augusta National. After a week off, he'll continue what has been a solid 2013-14 season in which he's finished in the top 25 seven times in 12 starts. Having missed the cut the last two years in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, I get the feeling Bradley has a bone to pick with TPC Louisiana.
2. Matt Every
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Won the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: This has been a breakout season for Every. Along with his victory, he's got a total of five top-10 finishes in 13 starts this season. He's missed the cut twice this season, including the Masters, but bounced back with a T12 last week in the RBC Heritage.
1. Justin Rose
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Fifth at the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Rose has left something to be desired this season -- which might be a little unfair to write considering he missed time battling a shoulder injury. But, the reigning U.S. Open champ looks to be in a good place confidence-wise, coming off a tie for 14th in the Masters. He's one of those players you expect to contend every week. In 2013, he tied for 15th at the Zurich Classic. In 2012, he tied for 10th. He's got a track record and some confidence going into this week.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
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