The PGA Tour Zurich Classic of New Orleans began today, and since the Tour decided in '17 it would convert to a team format, it has given Tournament Dir Steve Worthy "recruiting ammunition no other tournament has: A different format from the weekly grind," according to Ron Higgins of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Worthy said, "We've got word back from a number of players who had not been here in a long time how much fun it is playing teams and how they should try it." He added, "The players who spoke very highly of their experience with us last year certainly helped with a number of guys we got back and got for the first time this year." Higgins noted the field this year has "set the bar ridiculously high for future Zurich's." It features 10 of the top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, including all four "current winners of the majors." The Tour "seemingly likes to use the Zurich to try new things," which is a "good sign of how much it values this event and celebrates its uniqueness." This year each team is "having its own walk-up music to the first tee Saturday and Sunday." Worthy: "It's New Orleans, known for music. It fits our format, which is fun. It works." Worthy "starts player recruitment each fall" -- he will "pick a tournament or two and schmooze with players without being an annoyance." He said, "It's an interesting process. All these players are nice guys and you almost sense they don't want to tell you 'no.' I don't mind if they tell me 'no.' I can back off, leave them alone and start for next year" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/25).
READY FOR A GOOD TIME: Jordan Spieth said his team "had a blast" last year, and the event is a "really nice kind of breath of fresh air.” Sergio Garcia added, “Everyone will be in a good mood. No one is going to complain about the pairings this week. I mean, all in all, it's just a great event.” USA TODAY's Steve DiMeglio notes while no official world rankings points "are awarded, FedExCup points can be gathered and the money won counts." Both winners "receive a two-year exemption on the Tour and win spots into invitational events such as the Tournament of Champions and Players Championship." It "still is competition" -- just in a "more relaxed atmosphere" (USA TODAY, 4/26). ESPN.com's Bob Harig wrote New Orleans' Bourbon Street and French Quarter "have always been a draw," but the tournament's team format is "clearly the reason" the likes of Masters champion Patrick Reed, Spieth, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson "are teeing it up this week." Many players "tire of the week-in, week-out grind of 72-hole stroke-play tournaments." This is "something different, something that allows for camaraderie." More "proof that going outside of the 72-hole stroke-play box can do wonders" is that there are "no world ranking points available and FedEx Cup points are reduced, and yet it hasn't stopped the tournament from getting a strong field" (ESPN.com, 4/25).
PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC: The use of walk-up music is allowing media members to have a little fun. ESPN's Scott Van Pelt played a game where he tried to pick several teams' songs from a multiple choice option. He guessed Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy would use "Meant To Be" from BeBe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line because Horschel is a "Florida guy." They actually are using "Young Forever," as ESPN's Steve Coughlin noted they are "big Jay-Z guys." Van Pelt correctly guessed Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown would walk out to Migos' "Slippery," though he did not pick Tina Turner's "The Best" as the choice for Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Coughlin said, "Sergio is a huge Tina Turner fan." Van Pelt: "Really? Who knew? ... I need to do more research on what music people like. I'm amazed that Kisner's a Migos guy. That's awesome" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/25). GOLF DIGEST's Shane Ryan wrote the bulk of the walk-up song selections are "generic to a heartbreaking degree, and reflect only apathy." Charley Hoffman, Nick Watney, Brendan Steele and Jamie Lovemark "all picked Tupac’s 'California Love' because they’re from California." Some of the themes "are a little more fun." Two of the "oldest players," Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, chose Toby Keith's “As Good As I Once Was,” which has the "perfect amount of self-deprecating humor." The "funniest and most interesting pick, by far, goes to Harold Varner III and Robert Garrigus, who chose the Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney duet 'Ebony and Ivory' in a nod to their own racial makeup." Ryan: "All in all, despite the slew of low-effort selections, I consider the addition of entrance music to be a major coup for the Zurich. It’s fun" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/25).