As it is for college coaches, recruiting players for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans is a year-round job for Fore!Kids Foundation CEO Steve Worthy.
So far, recruiting is off to a good start.
Worthy announced Monday that reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia has committed to play in this year’s Zurich Classic, April 27-30 at TPC Louisiana in Avondale. He will pair in the two-man team event with fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello, a duo the Europeans will likely lean on in this year’s Ryder Cup.
It will be Garcia’s first appearance in New Orleans since 2010.
“It’s safe to say Sergio is one of the most exciting players of his era,” Worthy said during the tournament’s media day at the course. “We’re thrilled to have him.”
Also returning, but with a new playing partner, is two-time Masters champion and 2011 Zurich Classic winner Bubba Watson.
Watson, who won the Genesis Open earlier this season with long-time caddie and Lafayette native Ted Scott on the bag, will pair with tour veteran Matt Kuchar. The bronze medalist in the 2016 Olympics, Kuchar replaces J.B. Holmes, who teamed with Watson last year to tie for fifth.
Like Garcia, it will be Kuchar’s first appearance in the Zurich in quite awhile. He last played in the event in 2009.
“Bubba and Matt are both fan favorites,” Worthy said. “We expect they will draw some of our tournament’s largest followings.”
Zurich Classic officials will roll out more committed teams in the coming weeks.
Returning to defend their title will be Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith, who beat Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown last year in a four-hole sudden-death playoff forced to Monday by rain delays and darkness. Both participated in the tournament’s kickoff news conference via video hookups.
Smith said with the positive comments he’s heard since the Zurich Classic format debuted last year from fellow PGA touring pros, he expects another strong field as he and Blixt try to retain their title belts.
“I wear it around the house,” Smith said.
Blixt may need his belt to help brace a bad back, which forced him to withdraw from this week’s Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida. He said he’s been advised to take another week off but expects to be back in time for the Zurich.
NOTEWORTHY: The tournament will make a switch this year with four-ball (each player playing his own ball every hole) on Thursday and Saturday and foursomes (alternate shot) in effect Friday and Sunday. … The tournament purse is up slightly from $7.1 million in 2017 to $7.2 million this year. Each winner will earn $1,036,800. … The Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday) and CBS (Saturday-Sunday) will again televise the event. … Single-round tickets are $35 and weekly passes are $85.