Planet Golf — 27 April 2017 by GW staff and news services
Blixt/Smith win in fourth playoff hole

AVONDALE, La. — Cameron Smith rolled in a short birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to clinch the win for himself and Jonas Blixt over Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

A playoff that was pushed to Monday morning began slowly, with the teams combining for four pars apiece on the first three playoff holes. But on their third trip down No. 18 of the morning – with one stop at the ninth, along the way – Smith put a wedge from 59 yards to within a few feet and Kisner and Brown both missed mid-range birdie attempts.

“Seeing how he played golf, the sky’s the limit for him,” Blixt said of Smith. “Just watching these last four days, I haven’t seen anything that good in an extremely long time.”

Kisner had forced overtime in dramatic fashion with a 35-yard clipin for eagle on the 72nd hole with darkness creeping in Sunday evening. It was Kisner’s third chip-in of the final round and erased the last of the four-shot lead with which Blixt and Smith had begun the round. The winning team put together 76 straight holes at TPC Louisiana without making a bogey.

This is Smith’s first career PGA Tour victory at age 23, and it earns him a spot in next week’s Players Championship. For Blixt, it’s career win No. 3 and the first since The Greenbrier Classic in 2013.

While the victory does not get either player into the Masters because of the team format, they are both now exempt into the PGA Championship as well as the Tournament of Champions in Maui. Smith and Blixt are now also fully exempt on Tour through the 2018-19 season.

Here is the background on the players and tournament:

Since the formation of the PGA TOUR in 1968, this week marked the first time an official event has utilized Foursome play as part of a team competition.

The Zurich Classic is the first official PGA TOUR team event in 36 years. The last official TOUR team event was the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship, won by Vance Heafner and Mike Holland. The tournament became an individual stroke-play event in 1982.

The Zurich Classic awarded FedExCup points and official money, and will count as an official victory for the members of the winning team. There were no Official World Golf Ranking points available this week.

Final-Round Leaderboard (Four Ball format)
Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith               67-62-68-64—261 (-27)
Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown                70-64-67-60—261 (-27)
Kelly Kraft/Kevin Tway                  71-63-70-61—265 (-23)
Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer               66-66-70-64—266 (-22)

Kevin Kisner drained a 94-6 chip for eagle on the final hole, with the team of Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith carding a birdie, to force a Monday playoff between the two teams. The sudden death playoff will begin on No. 18 at 8:00 a.m. CT utilizing the Four-Ball format.

The last playoff at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans came a year ago, with Brian Stuard outlasting Byeong-Hun An and Jamie Lovemark.

Kevin Kisner is the only player of the four remaining who has been in a playoff on the PGA TOUR. He is 0-3, having lost to Jim Furyk at the 2015 RBC Heritage, Rickie Fowler at the 2015 THE PLAYERS and Danny Lee at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic.

Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith
The team of Jonas Blixt (Sweden) and Cameron Smith (Australia) will enter the playoff having played bogey-free golf through 72 holes, including Sunday’s 8-under 64.

En route to winning last year’s weather-shortened Zurich Classic, Brian Stuard played all 54 holes without a bogey. Incidentally, the last player to win a 72-hole event on the PGA TOUR with no bogeys was Lee Trevino at the 1974 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

The last player to play 72 holes without a bogey and fail to win on the PGA TOUR was Charles Howell III at the 2010 Greenbrier Classic (T9).

Should Blixt/Smith win Monday, international players would have won three out of the last four years at the Zurich Classic (Seung-Yul Noh/2014, Justin Rose/2015).

Blixt is one of nine players from Sweden to have won on the PGA TOUR. Should he win Monday, he will move within two of five-time winners Jesper Parnevik, Carl Pettersson and Henrik Stenson. Here’s the overall list: Parnevik (5), Pettersson (5), Stenson (5), Jonas Blixt (2), Gabriel Hjertstedt (2), Daniel Chopra (2), Freddie Jacobson (1), Richard S. Johnson (1) and David Lingmerth (1).

A win on Monday for Smith would come in his 53rd PGA TOUR start at the age of 23 years, 8 months and 13 days (one day older than Adam Scott when he won THE PLAYERS in 2004). By comparison, Jason Day is the youngest Aussie to win on the PGA TOUR, doing so at 22 years, 6 months and 11 days at the 2010 AT&T Byron Nelson.

Here’s the current list of youngest Australian winners on the PGA TOUR since 1970:

Year    Tournament      Player  Years   Months  Days
2010    AT&T Byron Nelson       Jason Day       22      6       11
2003    Dell Technologies Championship  Adam Scott      23      1       16
2004    THE PLAYERS Championship        Adam Scott      23      8       12
2004    Booz Allen Classic      Adam Scott      23      11      11
1971    Caracas General Motors Open     David Graham    24      8       15
2005    Genesis Open    Adam Scott      24      3       4

A win on Monday for Blixt would come in his 133rd PGA TOUR start at the age of 33 years and 7 days. He is one of nine Swedes to win on TOUR. It would be his third TOUR win (2012 Safeway Open, 2013 Greenbrier Classic).

Because of his top-125 finish (107th) in last year’s FedExCup standings, Blixt is in the field at THE PLAYERS Championship in two weeks. Smith, who finished 157th in the standings, is not presently in the field at TPC Sawgrass.

Smith came into this week off a T6 finish at the Valero Texas Open last week, his best performance this season. Prior to this week, Blixt’s best showing this season is a T20 at the Farmers Insurance Open.

In Smith’s only previous appearance in New Orleans, he shot 69-70-69-69 to finish T43 in 2015. Blixt is making his fifth start in the Zurich Classic. He also posted four sub-par rounds in his first appearance in the tournament to finish T13 in 2012, the best result he’s had at TPC Louisiana (T72/2016, MC/2015, 70th/2013).

Smith, whose best PGA TOUR finish is a T4 at the 2015 U.S. Open, made his way back onto the PGA TOUR this season by virtue of his seventh place finish on the 2016 Tour priority list.

About Jonas Blixt
Height: 5-10
Weight: 164
Birthdate: April 24, 1984
Birthplace: Nassjo, Smaland, Sweden
Residence: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Family: Single
Education: Florida State University (2008, International Business)
Turned professional: 2008
Joined TOUR: 2012 Tour Graduate: 2011
Club Affiliation: Karlstad GC (Karlstad, Sweden)

About Cameron Smith
Height: 5-11
Weight: 172
Birthdate: August 18, 1993
Birthplace: Brisbane, Australia
Residence: Jacksonville, Florida
Family: Single
Turned professional: 2013
Joined TOUR: 2015 Tour Graduate: 2016

Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown
One day after beginning round three with nine straight pars en route to a 5-under 67, Aiken, South Carolina residents Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown began the final round with eight straight birdies to quickly erase a four-stroke deficit to 54-hole leaders Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith. The pair went on to add birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 and an eagle on No. 18 for a final-round 12-under 60. The 60 equaled the round of the week turned in Friday by Retief Goosen and Tyrone Van Aswegen (T14).

Kisner and Brown both play out of Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, South Carolina.

Beginning on the 10th hole Saturday, Kisner and Brown birdied 16 out of their next 20 holes, including nine straight from No. 18 Saturday to No. 8 Sunday.

A win for Kisner on Monday would come in his 145th PGA TOUR start at the age of 33 years, 2 months and 16 days. It would mark his second TOUR victory (2015 RSM Classic).

A win for Brown on Monday would come in his 147th PGA TOUR start at the age of 33 years, 11 months and 9 days. It would mark his second TOUR victory (2013 Puerto Rico Open).

Both Brown and Kisner have collected one runner-up finish this season. Brown’s T2 showing came at the Genesis Open, while Kisner claimed T2 honors at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Kisner made his fifth start in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this week, with a T28 in his last start in 2015 his previous-best showing. Brown had made three previous starts at TPC Louisiana, with a T36 also in 2015 his previous-best showing.

Earlier this year, Brown and Kisner agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs for the First Tee of Aiken’s capital campaign, as it pertains to the building of a new home on the University of South Carolina Aiken campus.

About Kevin Kisner
Height: 5-10
Weight: 165
Birthdate: February 15, 1984
Birthplace: Aiken, South Carolina
Residence: Aiken, South Carolina
Family: Wife, Brittany; Kathleen (6/9/14)
Education: University of Georgia (2006, Business Management)
Turned professional: 2006
Joined TOUR: 2011 Tour Graduate: 2010, 2013
Club Affiliation: Palmetto Golf Club (Aiken, S.C.)

About Scott Brown
Height: 5-8
Weight: 170
Birthdate: May 22, 1983
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia
Residence: Aiken, South Carolina
Family: Wife, Allison; Elizabeth Marie (7/8/12), Emmerly Merritt (1/19/16)
Education: University of South Carolina-Aiken
Turned professional: 2006
Joined TOUR: 2012 Tour Graduate: 2011
Club Affiliation: Palmetto Golf Club (Aiken, S.C.)

Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer
Texans Ryan Palmer and 2015 FedExCup champion Jordan Spieth finished solo-fourth this week with rounds of 66-66-70-64.

In 10 starts this season, Spieth has finished inside the top 10 five times, including a win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Palmer has also made 10 starts this season, having entered New Orleans in good form with a T11 at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago and a T6 last week at the Valero Texas Open.

Spieth made his second appearance at the Zurich Classic after missing the cut in 2013. Palmer now owns two top-10 finishes in nine appearances in New Orleans (T4-2012, 4-2017).

Palmer’s most recent of three PGA TOUR wins was the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. He has advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs nine times in 10 seasons.

Miscellaneous Notes
Brothers Brooks and Chase Koepka finished T5 following a final-round 10-under 62. With the top-5 finish, Chase earns a spot in next week’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Defending champion Brian Stuard, along with playing partner Chris Stroud, finished T11.

The Zurich Classic is the penultimate PGA TOUR event for players, not previously eligible, to earn a start in THE PLAYERS in one of three ways: 1) moving into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; 2) winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans; and 3) moving into the top 10 in the 2016-17 FedExCup standings.

Ten past Zurich Classic champions made starts this week (bold). Here’s how they finished this week:
Brian Stuard/Chris Stroud (2016)/T11
Jason Dufner/Patton Kizzire (2012)/T5
Bubba Watson/J.B. Holmes (2011)/T5
Jerry Kelly/Steve Stricker (2009)/T14
Nick Watney/Charley Hoffman (2007)/T5
K.J. Choi/Charlie Wi (2002)/T24
Jason Bohn/Carl Pettersson (2010)/MC
Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson (2015)/MC
Seung-Yul Noh/Byeong Hun An (2014)/ MC
Billy Horschel/Matt Every (2013)/MC

Here’s a look at how teams with players with local connections finished this week:
Former University High golfer Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay (T14)
Former Tulane golfer Michael Thompson/Tim Wilkinson (T14)
Former LSU golfers John Peterson/Andrew Loupe (MDF)
Former LSU golfer Smylie Kaufman/Harold Varner III (MC)
Gulf States Section PGA golf professional Kyle Ramey/Phil Schmitt (MC)

Bogey-free rounds:
R1: Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer (66), Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith (67)
R2: 39 teams led by Retief Goosen/Tyrone Van Aswegen (60)
R3: Jonas Blixt/Cameron Smith (68), Bubba Watson/J.B. Holmes (68)
R4: 25 teams led by Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown (60)

Scoring Averages:       Front   Back    Total   Cumulative
R1:     35.325  36.013  71.338  –
R2:     32.675  33.150  65.825  68.581
R3:     36.119  36.357  72.476  69.391
R4:     32.250  32.694  64.944  68.646

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