The Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which begins a four-day run on Thursday at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, includes some high-caliber pairings for the first two rounds of the $6.4 million tournament.
Defending Zurich Classic champion Bubba Watson, who will be making his first start since winning the Masters on April 8, will likely draw some of the largest galleries when he goes off the 10th tee at TPC Louisiana at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
Watson, the world’s fourth-ranked player, would have attracted huge crowds on his own as one of the game’s most popular golfers. But he’ll be playing with two other stars in Steve Stricker, who’s ranked seventh, and No. 14 Webb Simpson.
Ironically, Watson defeated Simpson on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim the title a year ago. After losing to Watson, Simpson went on to notch two PGA Tour wins before the end of the 2011 season,
In the group right behind Watson, Stricker and Simpson will be former major winners Ben Curtis and Graeme McDowell as well as Justin Rose, who is ranked 10th in the world. They tee off at 7:40 a.m. Thursday.
Three other top groups will go off in succession from the No. 1 tee starting at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Luke Donald, the world’s second-ranked player, is paired with reigning PGA champion Keegan Bradley and K.J. Choi, a former New Orleans champion, starting at 12:30 p.m.
The 12:40 p.m. grouping includes three-time major winner Ernie Els, former LSU-All-American David Toms and Nick Watney. Toms and Watney have also won the New Orleans tournament, while former Masters winners Angel Cabrera and Trevor Immelman are in the 12:50 p.m. pairing with Michael Bradley.
Baton Rouge Pro-Am
Former LSU All-American John Peterson and former University High standout Patrick Reed, who played collegiately at Augusta State, are among the pros who’ll play Wednesday in the fourth annual Baton Rouge Pro-Am.
Peterson and Reed will lead four-person teams in the 10 a.m. shotgun start at the University Club course. Peterson received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the Zurich Classic, while Reed earned one of the four final spots in the field in Monday’s open qualifier.
Among the other pros expected to captain the 15 amateur teams are former Zurich Classic champ Tim Petrovic, Robert Gamez, Steven Bowditch and Daniel Chopra.
Boo Weekly withdrew from the field Tuesday for medical reasons and his sponsor’s exemption was given to John Daly. … Suspended Saints coach Sean Payton is scheduled to play Wednesday in the Zurich Classic Pro-Am at TPC Louisiana. Payton will go off the 10th tee at noon in a group headed by pro Ryan Palmer, whom Payton was paired with a year ago. … Former Saints quarterback Archie Manning will play with Donald starting at 7 a.m. on the first tee.