The PGA Tour’s most unusual tournament has an unusual pairing this week.
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans is a two-man team event that tees off on Thursday at TPC-Louisiana, with teams competing at best-ball on Thursday and Saturday and using the alternate shot format on Friday and Sunday.
Played for the fourth time this week, it’s the only official team event on the PGA Tour schedule, and it also includes a “Team Illinois’’ – well, sort of.
Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman, the Chicago area’s premier PGA Tour player, is paired with Dylan Frittelli, the defending champion in the state’s only annual PGA Tour stop – the John Deere Classic. Frittelli, who played collegiately at Texas, had his professional breakthrough when he won the JDC at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis in 2019.
Frittelli hasn’t made his title defense yet because last year’s much-anticipated 50th anniversary of the event was canceled due to pandemic concerns. Now that milestone, together with Frittelli’s bid for a repeat title will be played from July 8-11. Both the JDC and the Zurich Classic were canceled in 2020 due to pandemic issues.
Streelman has a frequent competitor in the JDC, but never won it. Frittelli had never finished higher than a tie for 18th in a PGA Tour event until he won the JDC – a victory that stirred memories of another player who won for the first time in the Quad Cities.
Frittelli was a senior when Jordan Spieth was a freshman at Texas. Their Longhorn team won the 2012 NCAA title. Spieth immediately turned pro, won the JDC twice along and eventually also captured the Masters and U.S .Open in 2015 and the British Open in 2017.
“Jordan came in (to Texas) as the most highly recruit player,’’ recalled Frittelli in reflecting on his JDC win. “He had a chip on his shoulder, and we pushed each other. I beat him in more tournaments than he beat me at the college level.’’
Both are still Texans, Spieth residing in Dallas and the South African-born Frittelli in Austin. Frittelli had tried to play on both the U.S. and European tours, but the win at the JDC changed that. He’s now an American-based player. His pairing with Streelman for this week’s tourney was announced during last week’s RBC Heritage Classic. Both let good finishes slip away with shaky final rounds on Sunday.
Streelman finished with a 73 and tied for 33rd place in the Heritage. Frittelli shot 74 on Sunday and dropped to a tie for 56th. Both are trying to improve their positions in the FedEx Cup Playoff standings. Streelman is No. 70 and Frittelli No. 96.
Doug Ghim, the PGA Tour rookie from Arlington Heights, is No. 74 in those standings. He didn’t fizzle on Sunday in Hilton Head, shooting a 66 to climb 22 spots to a tie for 33rd with Streelman. Ghim will also play in New Orleans. His partner will be Justin Suh.
LIPSKY’S ON A ROLE: David Lipsky may finally have landed himself a spot on the PGA Tour. Now 32, the Northwestern alum has been the runner-up in the last two tournaments on the PGA’s satellite Korn Ferry Tour.
Now a Las Vegas resident, Lipsky climbed from No. 8 all the way to No. 4 on the Korn Ferry point list thanks to a 65 on Sunday that boosted him 21 places on the tourney leaderboard. He just needs to stay in the top 25 to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2021-22 season.
Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, a Korn Ferry rookie, also had a strong tournament in finishing in a tie for fifth, but he remained No. 19 in the point standings.
HERE AND THERE: The Chicago District Golf Association has taken over sponsorship of Dave Lockhart’s Golf360 show on NBC Sports Chicago. It’ll make its season debut on June 5 from Michigan’s Harbor Shores course…..Cog Hill, in Palos Park, has added Top Tracer technology and will soon add lights spectator seats to its driving range..…Heritage Oaks, formerly Sportsman’s in Northbrook, will offer Trackman on its range. The facility, undergoing a major renovation, is targeted for a late-July opening….. Jeff Sluman, making a rare return to PGA Tour Champions after returning as a Chicago area resident, tied for 24th in last week’s Chubb’s Classic in Florida.