Zurich Classic of New Orleans — A Little Piece of Switzerland in New Orleans

With the northern US still decently cold (sorry everyone in Indiana for the Senior PGA Championship), the PGA Tour stays south by moving to Louisiana for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans! Get ready for gumbo and alligators, though not necessarily alligator gumbo, but who knows? That might taste pretty good.

About the Sponsor

When I hear the word Zurich, I think of umlauts (which is an odd word to not have an umlaut since it has three umlaut-able letters), and a city in Switzerland, not some insurance company that sponsors a golf tournament in New Orleans. Never fear though, because Zurich the insurance company is in fact based in Zürich the city!

Zurich insurance has three core business segments (thanks wikipedia). 1) General Insurance, 2) Global Life, and 3) Farmers. Now, I get the first two. But when I read about the third business, I was a little confused. I didn’t know that Switzerland was that full of farmers, and I didn’t know that farming required that much insurance. I mean, sure there are droughts (what up California), infestations, and maybe tractor issues, but didn’t know it was on the level of “Global Life”. Well it turns out that Farmers actually refers to the JK Simmons, bum-ba-dum-bum-bum-bum-bum insurance company that already sponsored a PGA Tour event back in February.

simmons

I had no idea that character’s name was Nathaniel Burke

 

After much wikipedia-ing, and with my limited knowledge of mergers & acquisition lingo, I think this is what happened. Farmers was acquired by British American Tobacco PLC in 1988. In 1998, BAT’s financial service division merged with old Zurich and formed Zurich Financial Services Group, under which Farmers was/is a part.

After all that, I’m pretty sure the moral of this story is that every major company that you think of has probably been in bed with other giant companies. Either that, or there’s another giant company behind every seemingly giant company that sponsors golf tournaments.

About the Course

The ZCoNO is played at TPC of Louisiana. The course was finished in 2004 by Pete Dye, which means we get another week where the PGA Tour plays on a course highlighted by railroad ties and zig-zaggy fairways.

I really wasn’t too sure what else to say about the course, but look at this video I found previewing last years tournament that talks about Pete Dye as a designer. Thanks PGA Tour media for doing my work for me!

You know what, I’m going to apologize for making you watch that video. It barely mentioned TPC Louisiana, favoring images of more famous Dye courses like Sawgrass and Whistling Straits. And it also featured impressively generic quotes about Dye.

“In his golf design, he certainly thought outside the box”. Thanks Davis Love III! “He’s trying to build a golf course that challenges the best players in the world”. No kidding Jack Nicklaus! “He understands how to challenge a golfer”. Great insight Deane Beman!

Just to clarify, this isn’t a comment on those guy’s quotes, but rather how generic soundbytes have become in the media. Just give me some controversy!

Last Year…

Seung-Yul Noh, at the ripe age of 22, closed out his first victory on tour with a two shot victory over stalwarts Andrew Svoboda, Robert Streb and Jeff Overton. I jest of course, but that doesn’t mean that a win isn’t a win. Still comes with a trip to the Masters, which a couple weeks ago, Noh (or Seung-Yul, I forget which is the technical last name for Koreans) used to finish T38. Clearly he can play.

In lieu of me writing any more about what happened, check out this 2 and a half minute summary of the tournament I stumbled upon while researching. PGA Tour media comes in clutch again.

Oh, and aren’t you proud of me for not making a pun on his name? Usually I would, but this fruit is hanging too low.

What to Watch For

A weak field — I’m not going to sugar coat it, the ZCoNO features … not the best field in golf. It’s really a symptom of being sandwiched between a bunch of big tournaments. Masters -> RBC Heritage -> Zurich -> WGC Match Play -> Players. If the good players are going to skip one tournament, it’s gonna be the Zurich. Not that a weak field is a bad thing necessarily.

Future stars — Turns out that champions of the ZCoNO tend to become stars of the future. In 2012, Jason Dufner made this his first win before going on to win the PGA. In 2013, Billy Horschel won and then went on to win the FedEx Cup last year. The jury is still out on SYN, but I’ll assume that this year’s winner will also use the win as a springboard.

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