In the long history of the New Orleans’ PGA Tour event, which will be played for the 67th time this weekend, only four golfers have successfully defended their title.
Which means Seung-Yul Noh, who became the latest champion of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last April when he won by two strokes, will have his work cut out for him when the $6.9 million event begins Thursday at TPC Louisiana.
Since 2000, when Carlos Franco won for the second year in a row, no one has come close to repeating. In fact, only two have followed their victory with a top-20 finish — David Toms (t9, 2002) and Bubba Watson (t18, 2012).
Besides Franco, the only players with back-to-back wins here are Byron Nelson (1945-46), Bo Wininger (1962-63) and Tom Watson (1980-81).
All told, eight past winners of the PGA Tour stop in New Orleans are in this year’s field.
Coming back for seconds, hopefully, are Noh (2014), Billy Horschel (2013), Jason Bohn (2010), Jerry Kelly (2009), Andres Romero (2008), Nick Watney (2007), K.J. Choi (2002) and Toms (2001).
Among the players in the 156-man Zurich Classic field is Troy Merritt, a PGA Tour veteran who had quite a tournament last week at the RBC Heritage.
Merritt finished third, but his second-round 61 tied the course record set by David Frost at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
The score was extra significant because Merritt fired the low round of the day by one shot over Jordan Spieth, who shot a 62 in his second competitive round since winning the Masters on April 12.
Pre-Zurich Classic activities came to an end Wednesday with pro-ams at TPC Louisiana and the University Club in Baton Rouge.
The winners in the morning session at TPC Louisiana were Ben Adams, Billy Richey and Matthew Wilson, who shot a net 17-under 55 with pro Keegan Bradley.
The afternoon session went to the Lucas Glover-led team of Michael Landrum, Bruce Kerlin and Fred Robinson, who also had a net score of 55.
In the Baton Rouge Pro-Am, Cody Simon, Bo Miller, David Andignac and Steve Ashy teamed with celebrities Alan Risher and Greg Bowser to win.
As she has done for the past 16 years, LSU women’s golf coach Karen Bahnsen and assistant Alexis Rather brought four members of their team to TPC Louisiana to caddy for the Classic Pro-Am.
It was a big day for Madelene Sagstrom, a native of Enkoping, Sweden, who got to work with a foursome captained by PGA Tour player Jonas Blixt, who’s from Nassjo, Sweden. Nadine Dreher also worked with the group.
Elise Bradley and Sydney Cavin caddied for Jason Day’s group.
On the tube
Portions of Thursday’s first round and Friday’s second round will be televised live by The Golf Channel from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.