Spieth headlines strong field in New Orleans
With a host of Champion Golfers back in action, there are plenty of fascinating storylines to watch unfold on the PGA Tour and European Tour this weekend.
The European Tour touches down in Asia for the Volvo China Open, while the PGA Tour will enjoy a chance of pace as the unique Zurich Classic of New Orleans returns.
Among the headline acts in America for the tour’s only two-man format are current Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth, along with former Claret Jug winners Henrik Stenson and Padraig Harrington.
That’s not to mention the return of Masters champion Patrick Reed. Here’s a rundown of all the key players to keep an eye on over what promises to be an absorbing weekend of action.
Stenson and Rose continue famous pairing
A pairing returning for a second shot at the title is Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, with the 2016 Champion Golfer and the Olympic gold medallist strong favourites.
They will face stiff competition, though, with 2015 Open Champion Zach Johnson looking to build on his top five finish at the Valero Texas Open last week as he pairs up with Jonathan Byrd.
Other contenders include 2010 Champion Golfer Louis Oosthuizen and his partner – and fellow South African – Charl Schwartzel, the American pairing of Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, fresh from his Masters triumph, with Patrick Cantlay.
Stenson and Rose are not the only European stars getting in some early practice before the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France later this year.
Sergio Garcia, who came so close to winning The Open the last time it was at Carnoustie, and Rafael Cabrera Bello are in the field, along with Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Paisley, and Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.
Double Champion Golfer of the Year Padraig Harrington will also tee it up with Shane Lowry, while there will be rare outings on the PGA Tour for John Daly and David Duval – winners of the 1995 and 2001 Open Championships, respectively.
Fun format attracts big guns
There is no other tournament like it. The Zurich Classic is back and looks set to be even bigger, better and more radical than its inaugural running as a doubles event last year.
In an attempt to freshen up the field, the event adopted the team format for the first time in 2017 and was won by the pairing of Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith in a play-off.
The format calls for best-ball play on Thursday and Saturday and alternate-shot Friday and Sunday, with this year’s event including the introduction of walk-on music for the players on the first tee.
And the event’s new reputation appears to have worked wonders as multiple Champion Golfers prepare to tee it up with their partners at TPC Louisana this weekend.
Jordan Spieth is among those returning to action following his remarkable late surge for the Green Jacket at Augusta, with the winner of The 146th Open pairing up with fellow Texan Ryan Palmer.
The duo teamed up for last year’s event and led after the first round, but they were unable to keep pace with Blixt and Smith and finished in a tie for third.
Levy chases historic third win
While the PGA Tour will see a warm-up for the Ryder Cup this weekend, Frenchman Alexander Levy will be looking to strengthen his claim for a place on the European team in Asia.
After claiming victory in the Trophee Hassan II last week, Levy will feel confident about making it a hat-trick of Volvo China Open titles on the European Tour.
The 27-year-old travels to China as the defending champion after becoming the first man to win the event twice with his play-off triumph over South Africa’s Dylan Fritelli last year.
Following his victory in the 2014 tournament, he returns looking to make more history and break his own record with a third title – and his sixth on the European Tour.
“Playing in China obviously agrees with me,” said Levy. “It's a lucky country for me and not only at the Volvo China Open as I've also finished seventh, third and fourth at other tournaments.”
But he won’t have it easy at Topwin Golf and Country Club as the field is packed with eight players who have won on the tour in 2018, including Lia Haotong, George Coetzee and Joost Luiten.