Lowdown:
The PGA Tour heads to Louisiana this week for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Jason Dufner defends the title and a strong field has assembled at TPC Louisiana in Avondale.

There’s an exciting start-sheet for this tournament with a number of international stars teeing it up. 2012 Open champion, and runner-up here last year, Ernie Els will play. So too young Danish star Thorbjorn Olesen, England’s Justin Rose, Marcel Siem of Germany and Shane Lowry from Ireland.

One of the oldest events on the PGA Tour, the New Orleans Open was first contested in 1939. Over the years the tournament has produced a diverse selection of victors – nine different nations have been represented in the winner’s circle over the last 25 years. Given the cultural melting pot that is the city of New Orleans, such variation seems appropriate.

TPC Louisiana was altered dramatically by original designer Pete Dye after the 2005 tournament. Many of his changes involved adding hazards to demand a more strategic approach. It’s a course where precision is essential. The greens are relatively large but they are undulating and it’s vital to leave yourself on the right side of the flag.

Last year the scoring here was extremely good with an average of 71.00 setting a tournament record. Jason Dufner posted a four-round total of 19-under-par, good enough to tie with South Africa’s Ernie Els. The American went on to take the title in a playoff.

The weather looks decidedly unpredictable this week with a chance of thunderstorms on each of the tournament days. Expect a few delays through the course of the week.

Venue:
TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana
Date: Apr 25-28
Course stats: par 72, 7,425 yards
Purse: $6,600,000 Winner: $1,152,000
Defending Champion: Jason Dufner (-19)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 25 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 26 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Saturday 27 – Sky Sports 1 from 7.30pm
Sunday 28 – Sky Sports 2 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Rickie Fowler – The stylish young American is enjoying a solid season on the PGA Tour with three top 10s and seven of eight cuts made. He was tied 10th in this event last year.

Brendon de Jonge – Ninth last week and with three straight top 25 finishes, the Zimbabwean is now one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour. He was tied 18th in last year’s tournament.

Charley Hoffman – Faded in last week’s RBC Heritage with a poor final round. But he’s clearly on form and has two straight top-10 finishes on the circuit. He’s never missed the cut at TPC Louisiana.

Key Hole:
17th. A par-3 of 215 yards, this ranked as the toughest hole on the course in last year’s tournament. With a newly reshaped green, a pot bunker guarding the right side and difficult run-off areas, par is an excellent score here.

Skills required: Course management. Finding the right positions to attack the undulating putting surfaces is the key. It’s a layout where it’s tough to get approach shots close, so good touch around the greens is essential.

Where next?
European Tour –
Ballantine’s Championship preview