Zurich Classic Round 1 Matchup Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

Zurich Classic Round 1 matchups and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. Andy Lack is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Zurich Classic Round 1 Matchup Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

Every once in a while it's nice to bring in some variety, and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans scratches that itch on the PGA Tour. This is the only event on the schedule to incorporate a team aspect. 80 two-man teams will play a Thursday and Saturday round of better ball, and a Friday and Sunday round of alternate shot. The top 33 teams plus ties after round one will advance to the weekend.

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Since this tournament utilizes a different format than regular stroke play, it's a lot harder to predict. With that being said, I do believe we can identify some teams that should be able to thrive on both this golf courses and in this format. TPC Louisiana has been the host course of this event for over two decades, dating back to when the Zurich Classic was a stroke play event prior to 2017. The Pete Dye design is dissimilar to his other courses that we have seen on the schedule recently, such as Austin Country Club, TPC Sawgrass, and Harbour Town, in the sense that it is far longer and more of a driver heavy course. The Par 72 tips out to 7,425 yards, and features wide landing areas of the tee, minimal Bermuda-grass rough, and rather flat putting surfaces. The course's greatest defense is the occasional water hazard and the sheer length of some of its Par 4s. For this reason, I will primarily be trying to identify elite long iron players, Par 5 scorers, and those who thrive in easier scoring conditions. Remember, round 1 is better ball, so we want to be looking for teams that can really fill up a scorecard.

Let's dig into my round one matchup picks.

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Zurich Classic Round 1 Matchup Picks

Tommy Fleetwood/Sergio Garcia (-135) vs. Tyrrell Hatton/Danny Willett (+115)

Selection: Hatton/Willett (+115) (Bet $100 to Win $115)

While Tommy Fleetwood has been a staple of this article for weeks now, I can't say that I love this spot for him. The ball-striking went completely in the wrong direction at the RBC Heritage, and he likely would have missed the cut had he not gained a whopping 8.2 strokes putting. I understand that he and Sergio Garcia are proven competitors in the team competition, but I have a hard time buying at this price tag. Fleetwood remains a spotty at best long iron player, and Garcia seems to have lost any semblance of consistency with his approach game as well. They are a formidable duo given their experience, but my numbers suggest they are one of the most over-priced teams on the board.

On the contrary, I actually have the Tyrrell Hatton and Danny Willett duo as one of my biggest values. I love this course fit for Hatton, who ranks 13th in this field in birdies or better gained, fourth in proximity from 200 yards plus, 22nd in Par 5 Scoring, and sixth in recent putting. He is quietly playing some excellent golf right now, with eight Top-30 finishes in 9 worldwide starts this year. I have somewhat less confidence in his partner, but remember, Thursday is better ball, which makes it easier for the best player to carry the team. I believe Hatton is the best player in this current four-ball. Willett is no slouch himself. He recently finished 12th at the Masters and won on the DP World Tour this fall. Ultimately, I simply believe this matchup should be closer to a pick 'em, so I will gladly take the extra 15 cents with this squad of feisty Englishmen.

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Zurich Classic Round 1 Matchup: Doc Redman/Sam Ryder (-125) vs. Brandon Hagy/Scott Piercy (+105)

Selection: Redman/Ryder (-125) (Bet $125 to Win $100)

The Doc Redman/Sam Ryder duo is one of my favorite sleeper teams on the board, and I'll gladly lay the juice with them in this round one matchup against Brandon Hagy and Scott Piercy. Nothing jumps out about Redman statistically, but he has quietly been trending in the right direction since a 25th-place finish at the Farmer's Insurance Open. Since the calendar flipped to January, he's made seven of nine cuts, including a 26th at the PLAYERS. Last week at the RBC Heritage, he gained 3.2 strokes on approach, the third time he's gained over three this season. Barely a year ago, Redman was a popular name in the fantasy golf and betting community for his ability to catch fire on approach, and it appears he's regaining confidence in that aspect of his game. Sam Ryder is a volatile player, but I simply trust him to make birdies. He's one of the better Par 5 players, putters, and birdie makers in this field. I really like this golf course and format for him.

Brandon Hagy and Scott Piercy enter this week with far more questions. Hagy is coming off a withdrawal last week at the RBC Heritage, and prior to that, he had missed nine of his last twelve cuts, with zero Top-20 finishes. I can't think of anything that Hagy does well right now, other than hitting the ball a long way off the tee, which becomes rather irrelevant when you are as poor as an iron player as him. Scott Piercy appears to be getting a bump from his 2018 win at this event with Billy Horschel, but he's a far worse player now than he was back then, and he has severely downgraded in the partner department as well. We have to go all the way back to the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open to find Piercy's last Top-10 in a PGA Tour event. Redman and Ryder possess far more upside, and I have no issue laying the juice in this round one matchup.

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Zurich Classic Round 1 Matchup: Keegan Bradley/Brendan Steele (-125) vs. Russell Knox/Brian Stuard (+105)

Selection: Bradley/Steele (-125) (Risk $125 to Win $100)

Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele were a duo I was high on last year, and they did not fail to disappoint with a fourth-place finish. This year, they are coming in with an even stronger form, and I see no reason to believe that they can't replicate last year's performance. Bradley has been in the mix a lot this year, with Top-12 finishes at the Sony Open, Arnold Palmer Invitational, PLAYERS Championship, and Valero Texas Open. He gained eight strokes from tee to green in his last start, quelling any concerns about his incoming form. Brendan Steele is a little more of a wild card, but I like this golf course for him given his prowess off the tee. He's only one start removed from gaining a whopping 11.8 strokes ball-striking at the PLAYERS Championship, another Pete Dye course with over-seeded Bermuda greens. This is a duo I simply trust, and I believe they possess one of the highest floors in the field this week.

Russell Knox and Brian Stuard are both more flawed players. Knox is better suited for shorter courses, as he is one of the better wedge players in this field, but he increasingly struggles the farther away he gets from the hole. Knox also possesses little to no upside with the flat stick, which severely caps his ability to fill it up on a golf course like this. It's been nearly two years since Knox has gained over four strokes putting in a PGA Tour event. Stuard did win this event as an individual in 2016, but he gained 8.6 strokes putting this week. I still have a difficult time believing this is a good golf course for him, given the fact that he ranks close to the bottom of the field in birdies or better gained, proximity from 200 yards plus, and Par 5 scoring. He will need an electric putter to stay in this, and I don't think that's something we can count on. I'm surprised that Bradley and Steele are so cheap, and I would play them all the way up to -140.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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