Zurich Classic finding identity as Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer run away with win

Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports

Zurich Classic finding identity as Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer run away with win

PGA Tour

Zurich Classic finding identity as Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer run away with win

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AVONDALE, La. – From the Bahamas to the Bayou, Jon Rahm just keeps winning.

It’s a feeling Ryan Palmer hadn’t known in nearly a decade until he and Rahm got it done Sunday at the team-format Zurich Classic, where Palmer earned a two-year exemption and his first victory since the 2010 Sony Open.

The TPC Louisiana triumph was Rahm’s seventh international victory and first since the 2018 Hero World Challenge back in December.

Rahm and Palmer finished 26 under-262 for the week thanks to another strong alternate-shot showing in the final round. The duo set a tournament record in that format with a 7-under 65 in Round 2 and closed with a 3-under 69 Sunday.

MORE: Zurich Classic leaderboard | Money leaders

Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia finished second at 23 under while Matt Every qualified for next week’s Wells Fargo Championship thanks to a T-3 finish with K.H. Lee.

Palmer played with Jordan Spieth a year ago and needed a new partner with Spieth sitting out. Rahm’s 2018 partner and good friend Wesley Bryan was also a no-go, and thus a winning team was born in the Big Easy.

Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer address the gallery as they approach the 18th green during the final round of the 2019 Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana. Photo: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the teammate dominos fall is a huge part of the Zurich Classic’s appeal in the days and weeks leading up. Dissecting the pairings and eventually their chosen walk-up music might be more intriguing than the actual golf.

International Presidents Cup team captain Ernie Els even introduced the idea of treating it as a chance to prep for the December matches at Royal Melbourne, with international players staying at the same hotel and bonding after-hours. Jason Day and Adam Scott played together for the first time, but that experiment ended early in a missed cut.

There’s also something to be said for simply breaking up the weekly PGA Tour “Groundhog Day” routine with the two-man teams, rotating rounds of best-ball and alternate-shot, and little touches like the first-tee music. The decision to switch it up in 2017 had its critics, but does anyone really think that one more 72-hole stroke play tournament each year is what’s missing in golf?

Billy Horschel returned with partner Scott Piercy after they won the 2018 Zurich Classic and always has a good time with the locals. He also likes mixing it up with the Waste Management Phoenix Open ne’er-do-wells and believes events that go slightly against the Tour grain are good for the sport.

“I think in golf now, we need to look at ways to make it not look so stuffy,” said Horschel, who finished T-13.

Tournament unique in many ways

The Zurich Classic is a lot of things. It’s unpredictable, especially in second and final-round alternate shot. It’s loud on the weekends and draws a diverse group of fans who arrive in jean shorts and fancy slacks alike. It’s actually about 25 minutes southwest of the French Quarter, where it’s not uncommon to spot players walking to and from various restaurants and taverns throughout the week.

The overall vibe is decidedly un-stuffy, and it should come as no surprise that the party lasted long after Rahm and Palmer walked off the 18th green.

This town has a reputation, after all, and slowly but surely the Zurich Classic is building one all its own.

 

 

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