The 2010 Zurich Classic was a showcase for the TPC Louisiana, the city of New Orleans and of course some great golf.  Jason Bohn, the winner of this year’s tournament, played remarkably, finishing at a TPC record 18-under-par 270.  It became a two-man shootout late Sunday with Bohn making birdies on three of his last four holes to defeat Jeff Overton by two strokes.  He will prove to be a very likable winner for the Fore! Kids Foundation and the fans of New Orleans.

Despite the weather delays on Friday and Saturday, the TPC Louisiana really showed how it has become a quality venue on the PGA TOUR.  Rob Arnold, head Superintendant at TPC, did an outstanding job of having the course playable after receiving almost three inches of rain on Friday afternoon.  The players were very positive about the condition of the course and its playability.

There were small crowds for the first three days of the tournament but bigger numbers turned out Sunday as the weather made a turn for the best.  They came out to see local favorite David Toms try for his second win in New Orleans but after a double bogey on the first hole, he was not a factor.

The Sponsor:
Zurich Financial has to be one of the best sponsors on the PGA TOUR and we are fortunate to have them in New Orleans through 2014 here.  It is estimated the corporation spends nearly $10 million a year with everything that goes into this PGA TOUR stop.  Over $5 million dollars have been raised since the start of its sponsorship in 2005 and that money has made a significant impact on local children’s charities.

The PGA TOUR is in very Big Trouble:
With Zurich being such an outstanding sponsor in New Orleans and also in San Diego, one has to wonder how long corporations like Zurich will support PGA TOUR events when a field of 156 features only two players ranked in the top 50, which was the tally in New Orleans in 2010. The system is broken and it is broken on many levels.

For instance, Tiger Woods has not played in New Orleans since he turned pro.  We may never know the answer why.  But here are some of my thoughts.

The invention of the Fed EX Cup playoffs and the World Golf Championships has destroyed many rank-and-file events like the Zurich. Time is a players’ most valuable asset. By creating these special, limited-field events, the TOUR has made it easier for superstars to get locked in to the World Golf Championship events and curtail their playing schedules to the detriment of regular TOUR stops.

You can’t blame weak fields on money.  It is just not that big of an issue with the majority of players.  The players and the caddies are doing very well financially.  You could say it is the city and the golf course but you would have to say that about many other stops on the TOUR because they suffer the same fate.  Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Dallas, Memphis, Hartford and Toronto just to name a few, are all in the same boat with New Orleans.  I say you need to look at the system to find the solution.

I have always believed that a TOUR of only 30-50 players would be very boring.  Although, not having those 30-50 superstars showing up for your event will cause the demise of the TOUR.  So what is the answer?  Well, money may not matter but if you pay them to show up like some tournaments do, you could potentially get a much better field.  New Orleans should approach Mickelson about having this event become his Invitational.  We could donate money to Tiger’s foundation which would guarantee an appearance.  Or Zurich could pull $500,000 out of the purse to sign up players for corporate outings.  It happens out on the TOUR already, just not here in New Orleans.

Kelly M. Gibson

PGA TOUR Professional