AVONDALE, La. – Billy Horschel was lining up his birdie putt on No. 18 Sunday when a large alligator came crawling out of the water about 20 feet away from the green.
There is no shortage of local flavor at the team-format Zurich Classic.
Horschel narrowly missed the 31-foot putt. Partner Scott Piercy’s par putt from inside 3 feet circled around the cup for a moment before dropping to secure the win.
“It wanted to take a victory lap,” Horschel joked. “Just wanted to take a little trip around the hole once or twice to soak it in.”
Two hours later, the team was still on property at TPC Louisiana. They were holding court during an after-party on an outdoor patio area attached to the Zurich corporate tent off the 18th green, drinks in hand and Mardis Gras beads around their necks. Freestyle rapper Kelley James was on the microphone standing between Piercy and Horschel, who had dubbed themselves “Team Beautiful,” on a stairwell overlooking the patio.
“He said it’s tequila, Team Beautiful, we need, this is what I’m talking about, they won, it’s the dream,” James rapped. “Congratulations to you but your putt on 18, woah, bro, I was like, where did it go? That was almost outside the fricking hole.”
Horschel and Piercy shot 22-under 261 for the week to edge Jason Dufner and Pat Perez by one stroke, with best ball in Round 1 and 3 and alternate shot for Rounds 2 and 4. Horschel and Piercy shot 5-under 67 in the final round, with birdies at 10 and 11 and pars on the final seven holes. Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen finished third at 20 under.
It’s the fourth PGA Tour win for Piercy and fifth for Horschel, who got his first win at the 2013 Zurich Classic when it was still a singles event. Horschel’s comfortability on this course helped Piercy, who said he’d often see a putt right edge before Horschel would step in and adamantly tell him it was two balls to the left.
“It’s kind of weird, because I don’t feel like I played very well at all,” Piercy said. “Him doing what he did, I just kind of helped a little bit here and there.”
The tournament held best ball in Round 4 last year but switched the order to have alternate shot for the final round this year. The decision was made because alternate shot is quicker and less likely to result in a Monday finish, and the format is more exciting because of the wild scoring swings that can occur.
It was another spot-on decision for the second installment of the only team event on the PGA Tour, a gamble the Zurich Classic took beginning last year. It elevated the tournament’s status, drawing four of the top five players in the world this year and a record crowd for the week. The addition of walk-up music to the first tee proved anti-climactic and didn’t really add much, but it generated even more positive buzz in the days leading up.
The consensus among players seems to be that one week of team play is enough, but tournaments lacking in reputation among players and fans should take note that a risky move in the Big Easy paid off for all involved. Gwk
(Note: This story appears in the May 2018 issue of Golfweek.)