South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace form team to debut in 2017 Zurich Classic
2007 Zurich Champion Nick Watney will partner with Charley Hoffman, second place finisher in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational
NEW ORLEANS, LA (March 22, 2017)—Two South African players who are ranked in the top 30 in the world but have never played the Zurich Classic will make their debut as a team in the 2017 event, announced Steve Worthy, CEO of the Fore!Kids Foundation, producer of the tournament.
Branden Grace, who is ranked 19th in the world, will team with fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen, who is ranked 27th. Grace and Oosthuizen were 4-0 as a team in the 2015 Presidents Cup.
“The addition of these two top-ranked international stars who have never played our event speaks volumes about the attention our new team format is generating,” said Worthy. “Grace and Oosthuizen have 23 international victories between them, including Louis winning The Open Championship in 2010,” add Worthy.
Grace won the RBC Heritage last year to add to his 10 international titles on the South African and European tours. His best finishes this season have been a tie for 13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a tie for 22nd at the Genesis Open.
He played on the last two International Presidents Cup teams in 2013 and 2015. He has finished in the top five in each of the last two years in both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
Oosthuizen has won 13 times internationally on the South African and European tours. In addition to his victory in the 2010 Open Championship, he was involved in a playoff for the 2012 Masters and the 2015 Open Championship.
With eight victories on the European Tour, he ranks fourth among South African players for wins on that circuit. He also played on the International Presidents Cup teams in 2013 and 2015.
His best finish this season on the PGA TOUR was a third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He has qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs the last three years.
Joining Oosthuizen and Grace will be the team of Nick Watney, winner of the Zurich Classic in 2007, and Charley Hoffman, who together have won nine PGA TOUR events.
Watney is playing this season on a major medical extension but has won five times on the PGA TOUR, including his first victory at the Zurich Classic in 2007. His game is rounding into form this season coming off injury, with three top 15 finishes in his last four tournaments.
His partner, Charley Hoffman, has won four times on TOUR, most recently in last year’s Valero Texas Open. His best finishes so far this season are a tie for second at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for fourth at the Genesis Open. He is currently ranked 48th in the world.
He finished tied for 11th in last year’s Zurich Classic. A regular at the Zurich Classic, his best finish was a fifth in 2014.
The latest commitments add to what is shaping up as the strongest field in years for the Zurich Classic, with four players ranked in the world’s top 10.
Already announced are the teams of Jason Day with Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose with Henrik Stenson in this year’s unique team format. Day was ranked number one in the world for 47 weeks and is currently third. Fowler is ranked 9th in the world, Rose is 13th and Stenson is fifth.
Also entered are Justin Thomas, winner of three tournaments this season and currently ranked th in the world, along with Bubba Watson, 2011 Zurich Classic champion, currently ranked 17th.
The new 72-hole stroke play format will feature Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the second and fourth rounds. The starting field will consist of a field of 80 teams. Following the conclusion of the second round, the field will be cut to the low 35 teams and ties at the 35th position. In case of a tie after 72 holes, there will be a sudden-death playoff using the Four-Ball format.