NEW ORLEANS — Playing on a course that he admits is not his favorite design on the typical PGA Tour circuit, William McGirt is making the most of the two-man team format for the Zurich Classic this weekend.
The Fairmont native is teamed up with first-year Tour pro Sam Burns, who has a Web.com Tour victory under his belt in the last month, to take on TPC Louisiana.
“I like this format because this is not the kind of golf course that I like. It’s very long and soft so it playing really long right now,” McGirt told The Robesonian. “I’m not a fan of Pete Dye courses. I played here two years ago and shot 68 and 73 and missed the cut by one shot. I decided that I wouldn’t come back here to play but then the format changed last year.”
The format for the tournament is best ball in the first and third rounds, while alternate shot for the second and fourth rounds. Playing that format requires a little more strategy for traversing the golf course with a teammate, he said.
“I got a good pair of spurs sharpened last week when I was in San Antonio and I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. You get all your apologies out in the parking lot and play your best,” McGirt said.
“You really have to think it through as to who is going to tee off on what holes. If you are within five or six of the lead entering Sunday you really have a chance because nobody is going to go crazy deep in alternate shot. It will make for some interesting TV on Sunday.”
Burns, 21, is on his first year on Tour after being named the 2017 NCAA Division I Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year and SEC Player of the year at LSU as a sophomore. In his fourth start on the PGA Tour, Burns came in a tie for eighth at the Honda Classic, and on the Web.com Tour he has finished in a tie for second and won the Savannah Golf Championship.
The duo was paired together after playing a practice round earlier this season.
“He signed with my agent when he turned professional and Brett Falkoff, our agent, asked me to play a practice round with him,” McGirt said. “When we played our first practice round I realized how good of a kid he is. He’s 21, but he plays like he’s been out here for years. He’s hits it a mile and really has no weakness in his game. I enjoy playing with him.”
For the teams that make it to the weekend, they will be introduced on the first tee with a new idea, pitched by the PGA Tour for this event, of a walk-up song like those used for baseball players. McGirt left the decision for the musical selection up to the his playing partner on home soil.
“Since he is from Louisiana I let him pick the walk-up song. I told him I didn’t care what he picked as long as it’s a country song,” McGirt said. “Since he went to LSU, he picked Callin’ Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks. We should have a good crowd of his friends and family following us this week. I hope we can give them plenty to cheer about.”
Having seven appearances on Tour, Burns said that spending time around McGirt is helping him learn.
“For the starts I’ve had, I feel like I’ve played pretty well so far,” he said.
“All of this is kind of new to me so I’m just trying to figure out what professional golf is like and how to travel and do all that stuff. Somebody like Will has been great to take me under their wing and tell me some things and give me some advice.”
McGirt has made the cut once in New Orleans, that coming back in 2012 with a tie for 30th. The pair tees off the 10th tee at 1:10 p.m. today with Brendan Steele and Jamie Lovemark.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.