LAFAYETTE — The numbers don’t lie when it comes to this week’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
The field list announced Friday for the 25th renewal of the $550,000 Web.com Tour event includes a dozen players who have won championships on the PGA Tour, including five-time Tour winners Billy Mayfair and Jonathan Byrd. A total of 36 players in the field have won on the Web.com Tour, and eight of last year’s top 25 money winners — all of whom have PGA Tour cards — will be in action when play begins Thursday at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club.
“We’ve got a lot of very recognizable names in the field,” tournament director Danny Jones said, “and more importantly we’ve got some names that you’re going to see on TV in PGA Tour events this year, and who are going to be very successful players on the PGA Tour in the next few years.”
The field gets a boost from scheduling; it’s being held at the same time as the PGA Tour’s restricted-field Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Many PGA Tour card-holders are not in the Bay Hill field and will be in the hunt for the $99,000 first-place check.
The Web.com Tour as a whole has been boosted by the PGA Tour’s restructuring three years ago. The former Q School method of earning a Tour card has been replaced by two-pronged qualifying from the Web.com Tour’s regular season and its postseason “finals” series.
“This tour is pretty much the only road to get to the PGA Tour, and we’ve seen the results of that,” Jones said. “Our fields have taken a huge leap forward in the depth of really good players over the past few years.”
Championship play begins at approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday over the 7,067-yard, par-71 Le Triomphe layout that has been the Open’s home each of its previous 24 years. Daily tickets are $10 and are available through Wednesday at the Louisiana Open’s remote office next to the Le Triomphe clubhouse; they will be available at the gate beginning Thursday.
Championship play runs Thursday to Sunday with the field cut to the low 65 and ties after Friday’s second round. Tournament activities begin Sunday afternoon with the final of the Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout at 3:30 p.m. at Le Triomphe’s eighth hole. Practice rounds are Monday and Tuesday, and pro-ams are set for 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The field’s final 12 spots will be filled in Monday qualifiers at Oak Wing and Links on the Bayou in Alexandria.
The tournament-record 156-player field is paced by defending champion Kelly Kraft, whose final-round 65 helped him rally from a six-shot deficit and gave him a one-stroke win in last year’s Open. Kraft is one of four former Open winners in the field, joining 2013 winner Andrew Loar, 2012 champion Casey Wittenberg and Brett Wetterich, the former U.S. Ryder Cup player who is the Open’s only two-time winner (2003 and 2011).
Kraft finished 14th on last year’s Web.com money list and was one of the 25 players who earned PGA Tour membership from their finishes on the money list.
The Louisiana Open is the only U.S.-based event in the first three months of this year’s Web.com Tour schedule. The Tour has staged events in Panama and Colombia, and those winners are in this week’s field.
Ryan Armour won the Panama Claro Championship — the first victory in 217 Tour starts for the 39-year-old — in February, and Sebastian Munoz won the Club Colombia title in his first year on tour after a collegiate career at North Texas.
Acadiana is represented by three former Louisiana-Lafayette players: Michael Smith, Ethan Savoy and Devin Carrey are in the field on sponsor exemptions. Carrey plays on the PGA Tour’s Mackenzie Tour in Canada.
Former LSU standout Curtis Thompson led by five strokes in Panama and ended up with a career-best tie for third place.
Another player to watch is China’s Hao Tong Li, who played in last year’s final Open group and had a chance at becoming the youngest Tour winner in history before posting a final-round 74 to tie for 11th. The 20-year-old, who is slated to compete at the Rio Olympics, tied for seventh at the World Golf Championships’ HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November.
Chitimacha Louisiana Open schedule
3:30 p.m.: Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout final, Le Triomphe, 8th hole
All day: Practice rounds, Le Triomphe
7 p.m.: Pairings party, Cypress Bayou Casino, Charenton
All day: Practice rounds, Le Triomphe
10 a.m.: Media Day, Le Triomphe
7 p.m.: Eat Lafayette “Taste of the South” party, Parc International, Lafayette
8 a.m.: Coca-Cola Pro-Am, Le Triomphe
1:15 p.m.: Tathata Golf Pro-Am, Le Triomphe
7:30 a.m. (approx.): First round
7:30 a.m. (approx.): Second round (field cut to top 65 and ties)
8 a.m. (approx.): Third round
Sunday, March 20
8 a.m. (approx.): Final round
After play: Presentation of awards, 18th green