Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry may have won the Zurich Classic when it comes to quality.

John Martin Trainer took his hands off of his putter, closed his eyes, and rolled his head up to the sky. The crowd’s cheers showed that they knew what they were there to see. The events were exciting, and the ending was intense. The most famous player in the sport was one of the main figures. There were several mistakes at crucial times, including the very last stroke of the day. We don’t need to be reminded that golf is democratically cruel, but those mistakes are important to note because pressure only appears when something important is on the line. As soon as Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry were the only two players left, it was clear that this week’s golf was pretty good.

AVONDALE, LA., APRIL 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrate the end of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana on April 28, 2024.
AVONDALE, LA., APRIL 28: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrate the end of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana on April 28, 2024.

Also, you should think about whether this is the best the competition will get.

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans was won by McIlroy and Lowry over Trainer and Chad Ramey in a playoff at TPC Louisiana.

“Look, it’s disappointing for the lads to finish the way they did,” Lowry said after his and McIlroy’s 5 beat Trainer and Ramey’s 6 on the first hole of sudden death. “But this week has been great. I’ll be happy to work with this man whenever he wants to.

We’ll start with the present, with McIlroy and Lowry. But to understand how they got here, we need to go back in time. McIlroy and Lowry agreed to work together for the tour’s only regular-season team event during a lunch with adult beverages after winning the Ryder Cup last autumn. His quote, “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk; that will teach you to keep your mouth shut,” was quickly put to rest with an opening 61. After making it through Friday’s foursomes with a score of 70, they came back with a score of 64 in best-ball to get paired with Zac Blair and Patrick Fishburn in the third-to-last spot. Luke List and Henrik Norlander were in the fourth spot.

Another pair, Trainer and Ramey, stole the show on Sunday. They shot a nine-under 63 in alternate shot to take the lead in the clubhouse at 25 under with hours to go until the last group finished. They said they didn’t think the lead would hold, but the funniest thing happened: as the wind picked up, all of those teams in the final groups kept stopping. That was the second turn in two overs, and things did not get better on the back. Ryan Brehm hit a lot of great shots, but his partner Mark Hubbard missed a few birdie putts that he could have made, and they couldn’t make 4 on the par-5 18th to make it into the playoff. Up until the par-3 17th, Blair and Fishburn were tied for the lead. Fisburn messed up a chip shot, Blair missed the 25-foot save, and Fishburn missed the comebacker. McIlroy and Lowry needed a birdie on the last hole just to get to extra holes. They got it with a great third shot from McIlroy and a straight shot from Lowry.

Read More: Prize money for each player and team at 2024 LIV Golf Adelaide.

It wasn’t hard to feel sorry for Ramey and Trainer, even though McIlroy and Lowry were the favourites. Trainer doesn’t have his tour card, and a win would mean job security for two years. Trainer missed his third try, and when Lowry missed a 10-footer to open the door again, Trainer’s attempt to tie from seven feet didn’t even come close. Even with the tough conditions on Sunday, a nine-under 63 in foursomes is a great score, but Trainer missed the chance that could have changed his life.

“Just play it like any other hole.” Trainer said about the last hole, “Doing the best we can.” “Golf is tough, and things don’t always go your way.” We did our best and had a chance, which is all that’s really needed.

It’s amazing that Lowry has won on the PGA Tour for the first time since winning the Open at Royal Portrush in 2019. It’s also his seventh competitive win overall. McIlroy won his 25th PGA Tour title on Sunday. He is now tied for 23rd on the tour’s all-time wins list with Johnny Miller, Tommy Armour, and Macdonald Smith.

Read More: Rory McIlroy criticizes LIV Golf and the Official PGA Tour.

“Yes, that’s really cool,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s pretty cool to win any PGA Tour event, but it’s even cooler to do it with one of your best friends. We’ve known each other for a long time—probably over 20 years—so to think about how we met and where we’ve come from to be here and do this together is a really, really cool journey that we’ve been a part of, and it’s just awesome to be able to do it with this guy.”

The Zurich Classic doesn’t count for world rating points, but both men are well outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup after slow starts to the 2024 season. Their win puts them ahead of the Tour Championship benchmark going into the second half of the season. If they won, it would have been great for the event, its organisers, and its fans. They were the main draw in a pitch that wasn’t full of big names, and because they were both Irish, they had a storyline that made them easy to root for. On the other hand, what we saw on Sunday was the perfect tour team event, which just goes to show that promises are rarely kept.

Since moving to this format in 2017, the Zurich’s have had Cam Smith before he won the Open and the Players, as well as Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, and Xander Schauffele. In the same breath, this year’s lack of well-known names wasn’t an exception; with 80 two-man teams, the pitch often has players with little or no fame to fill those spots. One of them this year was Russ Cochran, who is 65 years old and hasn’t played in a PGA Tour event in 11 years. Tournaments that happen between the Masters and the PGA Championship often have trouble getting good teams. This is even more true now that the RBC Heritage and the Wells Fargo Championship are signature events. In the end, most of the pairs don’t seem to have any story or fan hook behind them.

The fact that TPC Louisiana isn’t exactly one of the tour’s crown jewels doesn’t help the tournament’s case either. Not even dull groups do. It was scheduled against the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and on Saturday afternoon, the New Orleans Pelicans played home to an NBA Playoff game. Many of the golf fans who were there crowded around McIlroy and Lowry, leaving the rest of the course mostly empty.

Read More: What grips do the best golfers in the world use? These are the specs for 9 of them.

One big problem with the tour is that most of the golf courses look the same as the ones played the week before. So, good for the tour and event officials for trying to make things more interesting. That’s not the same thing as success. The PGA Tour is still re-evaluating its business after its new equity investment and possible relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The Zurich’s format might need to be changed again. It’s not an accident that the team aspect of LIV Golf has been one of the main reasons why it has had so much trouble getting people to play. The beauty of the Ryder Cup isn’t just the teamwork; it’s also the caring that it brings out, which can’t be found anywhere else. The tour knows this because it has had trouble getting people excited about the Presidents Cup.

Looking for ways to make the Zurich product better? This time of the year seems like a good time to bring back the now-defunct Match Play, which would put the green jacket and Wanamaker at the same time. There have been calls for an event with both PGA and LPGA stars for a long time. Now would be a good time to do it instead of waiting until the silly season. Innovativeness wasn’t the answer with the way things were set up now, but it’s still what the tour needs to do to get to where it needs to go at the New Orleans stop.

When it comes to golf, time and patience are often the two most powerful weapons. This was clear on Sunday, when McIlroy and Lowry didn’t exactly make a charge but instead stayed ahead of their opponents. It’s possible that the Zurich needs more time and care to let its team type grow. Still, giving the Zurich both in the hopes that it will produce more races like Sunday could mean waiting for a day that never comes back.

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