If recent history is any indication, greater things might be in store for defending Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion Seung-Yul Noh, the sweet-swinging 23-year-old from Korea.
Consider what transpired for New Orleans’ three previous champions: After winning the 2013 Zurich Classic, Billy Horschel went on to win the 2013-14 Fed Ex Cup. Prior to that, Jason Dufner (2012) won the 2013 PGA Championship and Bubba Watson (2011) won the 2012 and 2014 Masters.
Noh hopes history repeats itself.
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be played April 23-26 at TPC Louisiana in Avondale.
Fore!Kids Foundation CEO Steve Worthy announced Tuesday that Jason Day, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and currently ranked No. 5 in the world, will play in the Zurich Classic. Other notables include J.B. Holmes, Chris Kirk, Robert Streb and Charley Hoffman, among others.
This year’s purse is $6.9 million with the winner receiving $1.242 million
“I am looking forward to coming back here and trying to defend (my) title,’’ Noh said during media day Tuesday at TPC Louisiana. “When I started playing golf, it was always my dream of playing the PGA Tour and playing the majors, especially the Masters. After winning here last year, now I get a chance to play in my first Masters.
“Then you talk about Billy Horschel winning the Fed Ex Cup, so yeah, I’m really working hard on my golf now. I’m trying to follow Bubba Watson.’’
Noh’s remarks drew laughter from reporters and members of the Fore!Kids Foundation, which produces the annual PGA Tour stop in New Orleans. But Noh perhaps has the game to make his presence felt in his first appearance at the Masters at Augusta National next month. Though missing the cut in three of eight events to date in the tour’s wrap-around season, he does have two top-25 finishes at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (T11) and Northern Trust Open (T22).
Noh also has finished in the top 30 in the other three majors: U.S. Open (T30, 2011), The Open (T30, 2011) and PGA Championship (T21, 2012).
He is scheduled to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Master Card (March 19-22), the Valero Texas Open (March 26-29) and the Masters before coming to New Orleans.
“Not great early season,’’ Noh said of his game. “But I’m now changing my program and more focused on golf and conditioning with a new trainer. It’s getting better and hopefully it’ll be better four weeks from now (at the Masters) and six weeks from now (at the Zurich Classic).’’
Noh is expected to be one of a large and illustrious international field at this year’s Zurich Classic, an event that could benefit from a change in playing dates on tour. The WGC-Cadillac Match Play will follow the Zurich Classic on April 29-May 3 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco and it is Worthy’s hope that more international players will use the New Orleans event as a tuneup.
As an enticement to play in New Orleans, the Zurich Classic has arranged for a charter flight to San Francisco on Sunday night for those golfers who will be playing in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys in the top 50 in the world who want to come play here,’’ said Worthy, whose upcoming recruiting efforts will bring him to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters. “We’re hearing very positive things from a number of guys, both domestic and international. Some of those guys will become official here very soon.
“Every year, improvements are being made to the course to make it more player friendly. Plus, we try to provide more and more amenities for them. We always want to be moving forward. We’re giving away more money and doing more things on the property to give them a good expereince. i feel like we’re going in the right direction.’’
Lexi Thompson of the LPGA Tour will conduct a junior clinic at 2 p.m. on April 21 at TPC Louisiana as part of the Zurich Classic. ... Worthy announced new partnerships with Zatarain’s, Ryde and LCMC Health, including a “Kid’s Zone’’ presented by Children’s Hospital.