The PGA Tour is in the Big Easy this week for the food festival known as the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
OK. Just kidding about that first part, but only a little bit. NOLA is known for its incredible culinary offerings and it's a favorite stop on Tour for many for that very reason. Several of the top NOLA restaurants have stands set up at TPC Louisiana and you're sure to hear a few players rave about the famous Drago's charbroiled oysters.
And then there's the matter of the tournament, where Billy Horschel is the defending champion. Before the tournament teed off on Thursday morning, we caught up with TPC Louisiana Senior Head PGA Golf Professional Brian Long for a little Q&A about the event, the course and -- you guessed it -- the food.
PGA.com: You've got another solid field this year. Can you tell us a little about the field and who you're looking forward to seeing up close?
Long: There are over 25 players in this year's field that have won on the PGA Tour within the last two years. Additionally, we've got former major winners Keegan Bradley, Lucas Glover, Justin Rose, Y.E. Yang and Ernie Els. In recent years, this event has produced a lot of first-time winners that have gone on to become stars and it wouldn't surprise me if that happened again. I'm excited to watch Billy Horschel return this year as defending champion as well as all the talented players from Louisiana.
PGA.com: Clearly the players on the PGA Tour are the best in the world. I'm wondering though -- do any of the players ever seek a little inside advice from you or your staff about the course before the tournament?
Long: Great question but they don't. It's impressive to see players on the PGA Tour come play the golf course for the first time and play it well. I know how difficult it can be to play a golf course well for this first time but it just goes to show you how good these guys are.
PGA.com: Along with the great golf, we always hear those attending the Zurich Classic rave about the great food. What's the single most delicious thing you'll eat from one of the vendors on the course this week?
Long: It's so hard to choose just one but I can't skip the oysters at ACME Oyster House.
PGA.com: What's the most important facet of your game that needs to be clicking to score well at TPC Louisiana?
Long: Putting. The greens have a lot of subtle slopes that can easily be misread. The players that get hot with the putter this week should all be in contention.
PGA.com: What's your favorite stretch of holes on the course and why?
Long: I love our three finishing holes. While the tee shot on 16 isn't overly difficult, the second shot is over water to a green separated into four quadrants. If a player has to putt from one quadrant to another, the putt could break several feet. No. 17 is a great par-3 with water all down the left hand side. I played a practice round one year with a Tour player and the hole was set up at about 230 yards into about a 25 mph wind. I got made fun of for hitting driver off the tee but made par and watched him hit 3-wood into the water. The 18th hole is a great finishing par 5 and stretches out to 585 yards. There is water running down the entire right side of the hole but with a good tee shot, many of the Tour players will go for the green in two. Bubba Watson hit either or a 6- or 7-iron into the green in 2011 to win the Zurich Classic.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.