Five things to watch this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Five things I'm looking for at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (and elsewhere) this week:
1. I'm looking for a reason to get fired up about 14-year-old Guan Tianlang playing with the big boys for the second time in three weeks, this time at 7,425-yard TPC Louisiana. It's one thing to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur and get into the Masters, where Guan was low amateur and didn't have a three-putt, but it's another to keep hanging around on Tour despite admitting recently he was feeling "a little bit homesick." I love Guan's swing and he seems like a super kid, but enough about his age. Michelle Wie was 14 when she nearly made the cut in the (men's!) Sony Open in Hawaii, Ryo Ishikawa was 15 when he won on the Japan Tour, and Ty Tryon got his Tour card at 17. Those remain their career highlights.
2. Bubba Watson is due to turn his season around any day now, and I've got to believe New Orleans is as likely a place to do it as any. The free-swingin' lefty won in the Big Easy in 2011 and his life can only get easier after a recent move (into Tiger Woods's old house) and his various obligations as defending champion at the Masters, neither of which could have helped his game. Watson has improved every year until his mini-slump in 2013, and he's showing signs of recovery; replace his 10 with a 3 on the par-3 12th at the Masters on Sunday and he shoots 70-70 on the weekend.
3. Thorbjorn Olesen's World Ranking (34) should continue to move toward the single digits in New Orleans, where the 23-year-old Dane looks like a serious threat to win. Olesen, who tied for ninth at the British Open last summer, has been hanging around leaderboards all year: T2 in Abu Dhabi, T3 Dubai, 7th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Even a car crash the Wednesday night of the Shell Houston Open (he WD'd) couldn't derail "Thor." After a slow start at the Masters (78), he shot 70-68-68 to tie for sixth, and he has since accepted Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour. The kid has game.
4. I expect the LPGA to get some much-needed buzz by hosting a tournament in golf-mad Dallas for the first time in more than 20 years. The North Texas LPGA Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club will cut to the low 70 and ties after the second round, and to the low 50 and ties after the third. It features 49 of the top 50 players on the money list, including new No. 1 Inbee Park.
5. The seniors will also enjoy some extra attention this week at the 36th Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the second-oldest tournament in senior golf, behind the Senior PGA Championship. The team of Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman will be the favorite at The Club at Savannah (Ga.) Harbor, since they finished first and second, respectively, at last week's Gwinnett Championship. The win was the second of the year for Langer, and came just a week after he got within two of the lead on Sunday at the Masters. Forget Guan -- I'd like to see how Langer would do in New Orleans.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Course: TPC Louisiana
Course Par Value: 72
Course Yardage: 7,341
7:30 am: Nick Watney, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson
12:30 pm: Michael Thompson, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler
12:40 pm: Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Billy Horschel