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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Zurich Becomes the First of the Alternate Format Events

This is the week we finally get to see the retooled Zurich Classic, the singles-turned-team event that has captured everyone's imagination.

Stenson and Rose, together again

The new format is pretty simple: Start with 80 teams. Each plays a round of alternate shot and a round of best ball. Cut to 35 teams. Play another round of alternate shot and a round of best ball. Declare a winner.

I am a bit disappointed that the winners don't get a Masters invite. After all, the event isn't an alternate event, and part of the idea here is to create an event that will appeal to more people, which I think should count as a "grow the game initiative" and therefore get Augusta's support since they're really into that lately.

But at least each of the winners gets all the rest of the normal swag, created by combining normal winning positions (the winning team splits the normal first and second place winnings, the runner-ups split third and fourth, etc.):
  • 400 FedExCup points (800 divided by two)
  • Half of the combined money for first and second place
I'm curious how this will affect Ian Poulter, should he and Geoff Ogilvy place high. Poults only needed around $30k last week to keep his card but now that his major medical exemption ran out, I don't know how much he'd need to regain his card. (Assuming they don't win, of course. I bet that's what he's got his eye on now.)

Plus each player on the winning team gets:
  • Two-year Tour exemption
  • Invite to the invitational events like the Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship
  • Invite to the PGA Championship
  • Credit for an official Tour win
So when you combine all that with the ability to pick your own teammate and spend the week in New Orleans, it's not hard to see why this event looks to be even more popular than the Zurich folks ever dreamed.

TV coverage is supposed to start Thursday afternoon at 3:30pm ET on GC. And here's a list of the teams that have signed up, although Jimmy Walker had to back out to begin treatment. Sean O'Hair's new partner wasn't listed.

One final note: I originally had a different title for this post, one that I felt summed up the unexpected popularity of this format change. I don't know for sure yet if this is really true, although the initial response suggests it is. Nevertheless, I guess I should issue a Juvenile Humor Alert before I say:

At the Zurich Classic, Two Balls Are Better Than One.

Snicker at your own risk.

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