Unlike last year's two-team race of Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown vs. Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith, the 2018 Zurich Classic final round included multiple lead changes and contention between over a half dozen teams coming down the stretch in New Orleans.
After Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown started the day with the lead, it looked at various points like teams of Daniel Summerhays-Tony Finau, Jason Dufner-Pat Perez, Charl Schwartzel-Louis Oosthuizen and Brice Garnett-Chesson Hadley could snag the victory. But in the end it was a tandem of Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy who closed with a 5-under 67 to back up their 11-under 61 on Saturday to take the tournament by one over Dufner and Perez. Horschel and Piercy shot 22-under 266 overall, and for Horschel this is his second win on this course in the last six seasons (he won individually in 2013).
If Horschel/Piercy win today, Billy will become, remarkably, the NINTH different former Florida Gator with 5+ PGA Tour wins.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) April 29, 2018
Horschel and Piercy went bogey free on Sunday, and their score actually could have (and maybe should have) been even better than it was. After making an impressive five birdies in the first 11 holes, they had several birdie chances over the final seven holes -- seemingly on every other hole -- but ended up making par at all of them. It was enough, barely.
One of the few pars that wasn't an easy tap-in following a birdie bid came at the par-3 17th. It was a putt that defined their day and ultimately saved their tournament. After Horschel left his tee shot short and Piercy ran his chip a little too far past the hole, Horschel made the monster 8-foot par coming back. Then it was an easy two-putt birdie at the final hole, and the Horschel-Piercy duo didn't even have to worry about any of the teams coming in behind them.
Horschel, who might get hotter than anybody else on the PGA Tour, punctuated the par with a fist pump and then leapt into the air on No. 18 when his long birdie bid nearly fell. He made eight birdies on Saturday in the best ball portion of the weekend, and Piercy leaned on him as well on Sunday.
"We're excited," Piercy told CBS Sports' Amanda Balionis. "My partner was awesome this week. He sacked up big all week, hit some really big shots. Hats off to him. I was kind of zoned out, to be honest. I knew my partner was hitting good shots. I just had to go try to put him in the right spot for the next one."
"It means a lot," said Horschel. "It's nice to see the validation. Validate all the hard work, that you're doing the right things. Sometimes the results just don't show."
The results certainly showed this week, and now Horschel has five wins in his PGA Tour career to Piercy's four, and two of the maybe more underrated golfers on the PGA Tour get a week in New Orleans that they'll never forget. Grade: A+
Here are our grades for the 2018 Zurich Classic.
Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay (T7): My pick for the week closed with a spectacular 69 on Sunday that included an eagle on the 16th hole (in alternate shot!). This duo played the alternate shot portion of the event in 4 under (which is about four better than the field average), but they couldn't roll out anything truly special in best ball with a 65 on Thursday and 66 on Saturday (both were average or just above it). Still, Team Patrick was solid over all four days and, ahem, showed what a potential foursomes Saturday could look like at the Ryder Cup. Grade: A
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (T19): Speaking of the Ryder Cup, the Rose-Stenson team was right in the middle of the leaders until the back nine on Saturday. Through 45 holes of golf, this team was 15 under and tracking to finish somewhere in the 20s under par. Then, inexplicably, they played the final 27 holes in 1 over par (with no birdies in best ball over the final nine holes). Grade: B+
Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (T28): They get a B for the finish but an A for the celebration all week. Grade: A
Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer (MC): If missing cuts is painful, then missing them by one with two double bogeys over your last two holes on a Friday is agonizing. After a 6-under 66 in Round 1, these two shot a 2-over 74 in Round 2 during the alternate-shot portion of the event, which wasn't quite as bad as Xinjun Zhang and Zecheng Dou going 60-80! But it still wasn't great.
"We both struggled a little bit all day, but our short games kept us there the whole time," said Palmer on Friday. "I mean, it's fun. It's a blast. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for to. It's the game of golf. Yeah, we were laughing (about even contending early in the day). We feel like we stole a lot from the golf course. We were both in some really tough spots today." Grade: D-
Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley (MC): The Alabama duo struggled in the opening round and shot just 2-under 70 in best ball on a day when the scoring average hovered around 65. Then they played well in alternate shot with the same 2-under 70 score (which was actually two strokes better than the Friday scoring average), but it wasn't enough to make the weekend. It doesn't really say a ton about either's chances of success for the rest of the season because this tournament is such a different beast, but I would have liked to have seen what kind of damage they could have done on the weekend in New Orleans. Grade: D-