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There are two good reasons to come to New Orleans for the Zurich Classic. One is fairly obvious. "To be 100-percent honest," first-round leader Jason Bohn admitted three days before he became the 2010 champion, "it's the food."
No field in a PGA Tour event is better fed, and sorry, that isn't up for debate.
But while the food may be fabulous, for a certain strata of Tour player the appeal of the Zurich Classic is more about the chance to compete in a marquee-free zone. Two weeks after the Masters, the game's top names are on the equivalent of spring break. The second-weakest field of the year to date had Sergio García, No. 23 in the World Ranking, and K.J. Choi, No. 34, as the sole players among the top 50. Those numbers are fine with those who opt to play in New Orleans. More charbroiled oysters for them, and better odds of success.
Everyone had something different at stake. Bohn, who never hit a shot for the Alabama golf team because he won a $1 million hole-in-one contest during his freshman season, in 1992, wanted to prove his only Tour win, five years ago at the now defunct B.C. Open, wasn't a fluke and that at 37, after several years of hard work and training to overcome back problems, he could still win. He proved as much by leading wire to wire. "This is one I'll never forget," Bohn said. "The confidence that this brings me will change my life. Right now I can't wait to go tee it up again, and I just finished playing, like, 40 holes today. Isn't that sad?" Actually, he had played 30 holes (after 24 holes on Saturday), thanks to a Friday storm that dumped 2½ inches of rain in 2½ hours on the TPC Louisiana.
Jarrod Lyle also took advantage of his opportunity. He is playing on a minor medical extension from a staph infection in his upper chest and shoulder. Last summer Lyle, a friendly 28-year-old Australian, was told by the first doctor who examined him that the infection was cancer. The news was especially terrifying because as a teen Lyle had been stricken with a cancer—acute myeloid leukemia—that left him bedridden for nine months.
A closing 68 lifted Lyle into a tie for 10th, which got him into the field for this week's Quail Hollow Championship. He won $141,866, meaning he needs $136,806 in his next four events to stay exempt the rest of the year. "You can't worry about that," Lyle says. "You simply play golf." His 2010 game plan all along has been to play his way back to the big Tour by way of the Nationwide circuit, but his finish in New Orleans could change that. He is cautiously optimistic.
"This Tour is like a lottery," Lyle says. "It's a funny game. S---happens, mate."
Especially at the Zurich Classic, where opportunity waits.
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