Grades: Blixt, Smith take home inaugural team event at Zurich Classic
The first team event in 36 years was a wild success this week in New Orleans
It took more than 26 hours to finish the final round of the Zurich Classic, but we finally have a marathon winner. In the first team event on the PGA Tour in 36 years, Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith beat a team of Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a four-hole playoff Monday.
Both teams made par at the first three holes (Nos. 18, 18 and 9) in the best-ball format before Smith finally made birdie at the fourth playoff hole for his first career PGA Tour win (and fourth for Blixt). The team of Smith and Blixt did not make a bogey in 76 holes.
It was a tournament he and Blixt probably should have won Sunday evening. The duo had set themselves up to hoist a trophy in the dark after a lengthy rain delay on Sunday afternoon, butthwarted their plans, and it took a little longer than they expected to get the win.
"It's a little different playing golf in these circumstances," Blixt said of the relatively empty grounds Monday. "I feel like I have the best partner here, and he's been playing great this week. He's going to be a superstar one day, and you can see it now. I'm very proud of him, and he should be very proud of himself."
Smith was too overcome to even speak.
"I can't even talk," Smith said. "I'm sorry."
"It's awesome isn't it," whispered Blixt before hugging the 23-year-old Australian around the neck.
This was Smith's 53 career PGA Tour event. He has six top 10s and 12 top 25s including a T4 at the 2015 U.S. Open, so he has been bubbling up to the surface for a while. Don't be surprised if he overflows in the near future.
"It's a lot of fun for him," said Blixt. "He gets to pick his own schedule. Seeing how he plays golf, the sky is the limit for him. I've never seen anything that good in an extremely long time. I can't wait to see what's to come from him."
The first team event since 1981 was a wild success even if the Monday morning playoff was a tad underwhelming (the first three holes yielded a whole lot of nothing). Blixt and Smith played tremendously all week and shot a deserving 64 on Sunday including a 30 coming home.
Despite the theatrics from Kisner late on Sunday evening in New Orleans, it really did feel like Smith and Blixt were supposed to win this tournament. And for the latter, it might be the first of many for years to come. Grade: A+
Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer (4th): The Texas twosome came up a little bit short, despite a fun back nine charge that included birdies in four of their first six holes coming home Sunday. I always enjoy watching Spieth in team events, and this was no different. He seems to be at his best when he's coaching up and chipping in from all over the yard. Palmer proved himself a worthy partner, and they were in it until the very end. Grade: A
Brooks Koepka-Chase Koepka (T5): With Chase Koepka playing in his first PGA Tour event, this duo dodged a few bullets down the stretch and finished inside the top five which means Chase is exempt to play in the Wells Fargo Championship this weekend. That's a big deal for somebody with no status on Tour, and they earned it with a 62 on Sunday including a 28 (!) on the front nine (with a bogey!) Grade: A
Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson (missed cut): My pick this week finished a disappointing 1 stroke outside the cut line. This was doubly frustrating for them because of their history in team play at the Ryder Cup and the fact that Rose won on this course just two years ago.
"It was surprising, no doubt," said Rose. "We were hopeful of much better than that. Speaking to a few of the guys, you really get into the swing of this tournament, you get the rhythm going and you make the putts and then everything feels fun and sort of you're vibing. For us, we kept fighting it, we kept fighting the momentum, and that's really what killed us.
"Then it kind of puts the pressure on the birdie putts when you do have them because suddenly they become critical, they're not just sort of bonuses where you're rolling forward. Yeah, we just got on the wrong side of momentum this week."
It didn't seem to ruin Rose's weekend. Grade: D
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