This Week in Golf - 19th through April 22nd

This Week in Golf - 19th through April 22nd

This Week in Golf - 19th through April 22nd
April 16th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - PGA TOUR - ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS, TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana - Following a one-year hiatus while the club recovered from damage it suffered during Hurricane Katrina, the TPC Louisiana will once again host the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this week.

The course re-opened last July 15, more than two months after English Turn Golf & Country Club hosted the 2006 event, and is now scheduled as the venue at least through next year.

At English Turn last season, Chris Couch became the fourth player in PGA Tour history to win a tournament after making the cut on the number. He did it in dramatic fashion, too, by chipping in for par from 55 feet on the 72nd hole to hold off Fred Funk and Charles Howell III.

Couch's first PGA Tour win came one day before his 33rd birthday. His $1.08 million check -- almost three times his previous career earnings -- made for a nice present.

"I just saw that first-place check," he said afterward. "It hasn't sunk in yet, but it is absolutely amazing."

Couch is back in the field to defend his title. He will be among five of the last seven tournament winners, including two-time champion Carlos Franco, a back-to-back winner in 1999-2000 who finished fifth in last week's Nationwide Tour event.

Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi are the only champions from the last eight years who will not appear this weekend.

As usual, the Golf Channel will broadcast coverage of the first two rounds, while CBS will cover the weekend. Next week is the Byron Nelson Championship, where Brett Wetterich earned his first PGA Tour win last year.

EUROPEAN TOUR

BMW ASIAN OPEN, Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club, Shanghai, China - The field at this year's Asian Open includes four major champions, an eight-time Order of Merit champion, and a handful of European Ryder Cuppers.

It also features the most successful Chinese golfer ever, and he's far from intimidated.

"I have played against the likes of Ernie Els and John Daly before, and I have beaten them before," said Lian-Wei Zhang, who became the first Chinese player to win on the European Tour when he claimed the Singapore Masters.

Zhang will anchor the Chinese contingent at this year's Asian Open -- along with this year's Singapore Masters winner, Liang Wen-Chong -- and he's looking forward to bettering his best-ever finish at the event, a tie for fifth place in 2004.

"I am very familiar with the players, the course and I believe this year I could do better," he said.

The field that stands in his way includes major winners Retief Goosen, Els, Daly and Paul Lawrie as well as Colin Montgomerie, the eight-time Order of Merit winner, and fellow former European Ryder Cuppers Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Last year, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano beat Henrik Stenson in a playoff with a birdie on the first extra hole. Fernandez-Castano will be back to defend his title.

The European Tour is in China for the second week in a row before heading back to Europe. Last week's winner at the Volvo China Open, Markus Brier, will also be in the field.

The Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds. Next week's tournament is the Open de Espana, where Niclas Fasth birdied the fourth sudden-death playoff hole to beat John Bickerton last year.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

LIBERTY MUTUAL LEGENDS OF GOLF, The Westin Savannah Harbor Resort and Spa, Savannah, Georgia - The Champions Tour returns from a two-week hiatus for the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the event that spawned the creation of the Senior Circuit.

The Legends of Golf started in 1978, two years before the tour was created, although it is still the second-oldest Champions event behind the Senior PGA Championship.

In addition to the 54-hole stroke-play event this week, there will also be a 36-hole, two-man better-ball competition featuring the two divisions -- Raphael (50-69 years old) and Demaret (70+ years old) -- playing for unofficial money.

The Demaret Division will compete on Monday and Tuesday, while the Raphael Division will play on Friday and Saturday.

The event is returning to Savannah for the fifth straight year.

Last year, reigning Charles Schwab Cup champion Jay Haas rolled to a five-shot win over Peter Jacobsen and Craig Stadler for one of his four victories in 2006.

The Golf Channel will have coverage of the tournament on Friday, and CBS will broadcast it on Saturday and Sunday.

The Champions Tour will be off again next week before returning for the FedEx Kinko's Classic, where Haas also won last year -- one of three wins in a four- start period that ended with his victory at the Senior PGA Championship.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

ATHENS REGIONAL FOUNDATION CLASSIC, Jennings Mill Country Club, Bogart, Georgia - Last year, the inaugural Athens Regional Foundation Classic was won by a player who desperately needed a win.

By shooting a final-round 69 to cruise to a three-shot victory, Paul Gow claimed his third Nationwide Tour title -- but first since the 2000 Hershey Open.

"When you haven't won in a while, it makes it nice to get it done again," Gow said. "That's why you're here, to try and hone your game to get ready for the PGA Tour."

Gow moved on to play in eight PGA Tour events so far this season, but he missed the cut in half of them. He returned to the Nationwide Tour last week and missed the cut at the South Georgia Classic.

Which means he missed John Kimbell, a 38-year-old rookie, claim his first Nationwide Tour win Sunday by shooting a 69 in the final round at Kinderlou Forest.

Kimbell, the only player to break 70 during a windy final round at the South Georgia Classic, will be in the field this week looking for back-to-back wins.

The Nationwide Tour will take a one-week break before returning April 26 for the Henrico County Open, where Matt Kuchar two-putted for birdie on the third playoff hole last year to defeat Paul Claxton.

CANADIAN TOUR

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CLASSIC, Brookside Country Club, Stockton, California - Last year, Matt Hansen birdied the first extra hole to beat Erik Compton, Jeff Quinney and John Mallinger in a four-man playoff.

Sound familiar? It should if you followed last week's San Jose International Open, where Adam Bland won a four-man playoff to claim the Canadian Tour's 2007 season opener.

This week's purse is the same as last week's: $100,000. The Canadian Tour will head farther south next week for the Corona Mazatlan Classic Mexican PGA Championship, where Rob Oppenheim birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Stephen Gangluff last year.

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