Former University High golfer paired with defending champ Horschel, crowd favorite Fowler
“It’s a frustrating game. I love it and I hate it, and I’m probably like every other golfer on the planet in that regard.” ZACH STRIEF, Saints right tackle, after playing in the Celebrity Shootout at TPC Louisiana
If you’re coming out to watch Thursday’s first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, expect sneaker-to-sneaker traffic during the lunch hour around the first tee.
Tournament officials released groupings Tuesday for Thursday’s first round and Friday’s second round of the $6.8 million PGA Tour event, which runs through Sunday at TPC Louisiana in Avondale.
At 12:30 p.m. Thursday, former University High golfer Patrick Reed tees off No. 1 with defending Zurich Classic champion Billy Horschel and crowd favorite Rickie Fowler. They’ll start from No. 10 at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Reed, ranked No. 25 in the world, is the top-ranked player in the field according to the FedEx Cup standings at No. 4. Reed tied for 48th last week in the RBC Heritage but has two wins this season in the Humana Challenge and the Cadillac Championship.
Following the Reed-Horschel-Fowler group at 12:40 p.m. is the threesome of David Toms, Justin Rose and Ernie Els.
Rose, who won the U.S. Open in June at Merion, is the top-ranked player in the field by the world rankings at No. 11. Els, the four-time major winner, was the runner-up in a sudden-death playoff here in 2012 to Jason Dufner, who is not in this year’s field.
Toms, the former LSU All-American and Shreveport resident, won the Zurich in 2001, the same year he captured the PGA Championship. His best finish this year was a tie for fourth in the Puerto Rico Open in March.
Former LSU golfer John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA champion, tees off No. 1 at 1:20 p.m. Former LSU teammate Andrew Loupe, who tied for fourth in San Antonio in March, tees off No. 1 at 1:50 p.m.
Former Tulane golfer Michael Thompson tees off No. 10 at 12:40 p.m. with Boo Weekley and D.A. Points, while former LSU and UNO golfer Ken Looper tees off No. 10 in the final group at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, former Jesuit High golfer Neal Ajubita, in the field after winning the PGA Gulf States sectional, tees off No. 1 at 2 p.m. Baton Rouge native Heath Slocum goes off No. 1 at 1:20 p.m.
Wednesday is Pro-Am(s) day
Wednesday’s tournament schedule features pro-ams at both TPC Louisiana and the University Club in Baton Rouge.
The pro-am at TPC Louisiana begins at 7 a.m. Admission is $25. Saints coach Sean Payton will tee off on No. 10 at 12:40 p.m. with Ryan Palmer.
The pro-am at the University Club starts at 8 a.m. There is no charge for that event.
Loupe and Peterson will be among those in the Baton Rouge pro-am, along with Chris DiMarco, Robert Gamez and 2005 Zurich champion Tim Petrovic.
Among those playing at TPC Louisiana will be Horschel, Watney, Toms, Fowler, Reed, Thompson, Rose and Els.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram and recording artist Darius Rucker (formerly of Hootie & The Blowfish) teamed to win Tuesday’s Capital One Celebrity Shootout at TPC Louisiana.
Rucker donated his half of the $30,000 first prize to his Hootie & The Blowfish Foundation. Ingram did not immediately name a charity to receive his share.
Also participating in Tuesday’s event were new Saints cornerback Champ Bailey, kicker Shayne Graham, former LSU and Saints quarterback Tommy Hodson and Saints right tackle Zach Strief.
“You see much smaller guys hitting the ball much farther than me,” said Strief, who said he basically gets to play only in the spring.
“It’s a frustrating game. I love it and I hate it, and I’m probably like every other golfer on the planet in that regard.”
This caddy’s a player
Bubba Watson, the 2011 Zurich Classic champion, also decided to skip New Orleans as he takes a break after winning his second Masters green jacket two weeks ago.
But that didn’t stop his caddy, Opelousas resident Ted Scott, from trying to get in the Zurich as a player.
Scott teed it up Monday in the Zurich Classic qualifier at LaTour Golf Club in Mathews.
While he didn’t earn one of the four spots in this week’s field, Scott didn’t play badly either, shooting a 1-under 71 to tie for 42nd place.
Have legs, will caddy
PGA Tour caddy Scott Gneiser was eager for work this week.
He was a longtime caddy for Toms, but the two parted ways late last season when Gneiser went to work for Peterson.
But Peterson cut Gneiser loose in March, about the same time 2011 FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas fired his caddy and brother Jay Haas Jr.
Haas brought Gneiser aboard for his past three starts: Houston, the Masters and the RBC Heritage, but decided against playing in New Orleans.
That didn’t stop Gneiser. This week he’s on the bag for DiMarco, now a part-time touring pro making just his fourth start in 2014.
DiMarco tees off No. 1 at 8:10 a.m. Thursday with Sean O’Hair and Chad Collins.
Zurich disaster aid
Tournament title sponsor Zurich and representatives from the PGA Tour will hold a news conference Wednesday at TPC Louisiana to announce an initiative to help disaster-prone communities.
Among those attending will be PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, St. Bernard Project CEO and co-founder Zach Rosenburg, touring pro Ben Crane (a St. Bernard Project supporter) and Zurich North American CEO Mike Foley.