PGA Tour's Zurich Classic Going to Team Format in 2017

Zurich sign at the PGA Tour tournament
Big changes are in store for the Zurich Classic in 2017. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Nov. 9, 2016 - For the first time in nearly 40 years, the PGA Tour will have a 2-man team tournament on its schedule in 2017. But it's an event already on the schedule - one that is making the switch from individual stroke play to the team format.

As first reported by the Golf Channel, the Zurich Classic, the longstanding PGA Tour stop in the New Orleans area, will switch from individual stroke play to the 2-man team format beginning in 2017.

(The PGA Tour had not yet confirmed the reported switch as of Wednesday evening.)

When it happens, the Zurich Classic will become the first team tournament on the PGA Tour since the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship.

How the Zurich Classic Team Format Will Work

We don't have the confirmed details yet, but according to the Golf Channel report, the 2017 Zurich Classic will include these two formats:

  • Fourball (the partners each play their own golf ball throughout)
  • Foursomes (the partners alternate hitting the same golf ball, hence the other name of foursomes, alternate shot)

Yes, these are the same doubles formats used in the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and other well-known team tournaments, except those are match play.

The Zurich Classic will remain stroke play, and according to the report, 80 2-man teams will begin the tournament. The field will be cut to 35 teams after the second round.

Fourball stroke play is better ball; that is, the partners play their own ball throughout. On each hole, they compare scores and the low score counts as the team score. If Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are partners, just to throw two names out, and Rory makes 4 and Adam 5 on the first hole, the team score is 4.

More Details on the 2017 Zurich Classic

The tournament is scheduled for April 27-30 at TPC Louisiana golf course in Avondale, a New Orleans suburb.

More details about the format changes, as reported by Golf Channel's George Savaricas:

  • The top 80 eligible golfers who enter will be able to select their own teammates.
  • Members of the winning team will get into the Tournament of Champions and the PGA Championship as a result of the victory, but will not earn Masters invitations.
  • A regular PGA Tour tournament awards 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner; the team-format Zurich Classic will give 400 points to each of the golfers on the winning team.
  • Both members of the winning team will receive two-year exemptions to play on the PGA Tour, same as with a regular tour event.

The Zurich Classic was first played in 1938, its first champion "Lighthorse" Harry Cooper. It's been part of the PGA Tour schedule every year since 1958.

The last of Billy Casper's 51 PGA Tour victories happened in this tournament in 1975. In 1974, Lee Trevino won and went the entire tournament without a bogey. And Jack Nicklaus won in a playoff in 1973. Quite the 3-year stretch in tournament history.

Team Tournaments in PGA Tour History

We said at the top that the 2017 Zurich Classic will be the first team event on the PGA Tour in nearly 40 years.

The last was the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship.

The Disney, as it was known, debuted as an individual stroke play tournament in 1971. Jack Nicklaus won it each of its first three years. In 1974, it switched to the 2-man team format and remained so through the 1981 event. In 1982, it went back to individual stroke play, and stayed with that format until it was last played in 2012.

In the years since 1981, there have been some team tournaments in the so-called "silly season" - unofficial money events. But no official PGA Tour events with a team format.

Team tournaments were once more common on tour, however. The Miami International Four Ball was, in the 1920s and 1930s, one of the bigger events on the tour's winter circuit. Its winning twosomes included Gene Sarazen/Johnny Farrell, Leo Diegel/Walter Hagen, Ralph Guldahl/Sam Snead, Ben Hogan/Gene Sarazen and Jimmy Demaret/Ben Hogan.

And, in Byron Nelson's 1945 season, the Miami tournament was one of his 11 consecutive wins and 18 total that year. He partnered Jug McSpaden.