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Quick 9: New format yields excitement, top players in New Orleans

World No. 5 Jordan Spieth will team with Ryan Palmer at next week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. That means seven of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings will be in the event, a coup for the tournament. Brant Sanderlin/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

1. A unique format brings interest

This is typically a slow time on the PGA Tour, an understandable lull after the Masters that is nearly impossible to avoid. This week's Valero Texas Open has at times suffered the brunt of this malaise, although it perseveres and is typically among the PGA Tour's most prolific events in charitable giving.

Next week's tournament also suffers from this post-Masters hangover, but when Jordan Spieth committed to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the otherwise sleepy event suddenly had seven of the top 10-ranked players in the world.

Although the city's cuisine might be an underlying factor, the influx of top talent is undeniably more related to the format.

Last year the tournament announced that it would be a two-man team competition instead of the standard stroke-play fare. And in a nod to the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup -- and maybe someday to Olympic golf -- the format will be two days of foursomes (alternate shot) and two days of four-ball (better ball).

Players will not earn world ranking points, but they can earn PGA Tour exemptions for winning along with a purse that will be $7.1 million.

Spieth will team with fellow Texan Ryan Palmer. Other teams are Rickie Fowler-Jason Day; Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson; Bubba Watson-J.B. Holmes; Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley; Daniel Berger-Thomas Pieters.

It is a tough time on the schedule, but a new format has clearly put a spotlight on the tournament -- and it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

2. World ranking fallout

Because the cutoff for the top 50 in the world to be eligible for next month's Players Championship falls on May 1, this week's tournament in Texas is the last chance to qualify for those on the PGA Tour. The Zurich Classic will not be offering world ranking points because of its team format. Those competing at the European Tour events being played in China this week and next would also have the opportunity to move into the top 50 and make it into the field for the Players, May 11-14.

3. Rory's nuptials

Rory McIlroy joked -- we think -- after the final round of the Masters that his biggest regret was not winning the tournament so he could walk down the aisle in his green jacket. McIlroy tied for seventh and is now set to get married to Erica Stoll on Saturday in Ireland.

Although McIlroy had acknowledged he would be getting married before returning to competitive golf, he never divulged the date or location. The Belfast Telegraph reported this week that they will be married at Ashford Castle, a five-star luxury hotel and one of the country's most exclusive wedding venues.

Another Irish newspaper, the Independent, reported McIlroy's bachelor party took place last weekend in Miami Beach and said that this will be "one of the most lavish weddings ever staged.''

4. Poults' push

Ian Poulter missed most of last year due to a foot ailment that caused him to lose his PGA Tour card. He was granted a major medical extension for this season, meaning he had 10 tournaments to earn $347,634 or 218 FedEx Cup points. The RBC Heritage presented not only a great chance to fulfill that obligation, but also to win.

But Poulter struggled to a 73 on Sunday and finished 5 strokes back. He needed $144,669 or 117.75 going into the tournament, one of two remaining out of his original 10.

The tie for 11th brought Poulter $114,045. He is approximately $31,000 away from meeting the minimum, which he will attempt to do at this week's Valero Texas Open. He will likely need to finish inside the top 30.

If Poulter succeeds, he is considered an exempt player for the rest of this season. If not, he can attempt to gain sponsor exemptions -- which he is likely to get -- in order to earn enough FedEx points to finish among the top 125 and earn his status for next season.

"I feel comfortable with my game of golf,'' Poulter said after the final round at the RBC Heritage. "What's disappointing is I actually played well to win the golf tournament today. I didn't do it with the flat stick. I missed putt after putt after putt. I need to continue to work harder on the putting, less on the rest of the game of golf. If I do that, obviously I'm going to win tournaments.''

Poulter, 40, has 12 European Tour victories and his two PGA Tour victories were both WGC events, the HSBC Champions in China as well as the Match Play event.

5. A long time coming

Italy's Edoardo Molinari won the Hassan Trophy tournament on the European Tour for his first victory in seven years. After winning for the third time in his career, he made a point of saying how he never gave up through some tough times.

When you don't give up when you get injured...when you don't give up when you get injured again...when you don't give up when you play poorly...when you don't give up when things don't go your way...when you don't give up when you can't keep the ball in play off the tee for more than two years...when you don't give up when you spend 8 hours a day on a driving range and you end the day hitting the ball worse than when you started the day...when you don't give up when it seems like you lost all your skills that used to make you a good player...when you don't give up when you are 3 shots behind with 2 holes to go...when you ABSOLUTELY NEVER EVER GIVE UP, then this happens!!! πŸ† #nevergiveup #attitude #golf #life #lifeontour #longawaitedwin #comeback #dodoisback

A post shared by Edoardo Molinari (@dodomolinari) on

6. No more top 50

Two-time major champion Zach Johnson had been ranked among the top 50 in the world dating to his 2007 Masters victory. But he fell from 49th to 54th after missing the cut at the Masters and is now at 56th. That is where he stood the week of his Masters win.

7. Not a good look

Jason Dufner understandably took a lot of grief on social media after he dropped his putter in anger on Sunday at the RBC Heritage following a 2-foot bogey putt on the sixth hole -- leaving caddie Kevin Baile to pick it up. The third-round leader ended up shooting 75 and finished in a tie for 11th.

8. No #SB2K17 for Gary Player

You have to love Gary Player, 81, having fun with spring breakers Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman.

9. Masters invitee

Among the many perks Wesley Bryan will get for having won the RBC Heritage on Sunday is an invitation to his hometown event in Augusta, Georgia. Bryan is the first player to qualify for the 2018 Masters via the tournament's PGA Tour winners category and it is even more special for Bryan, who lives nearby.

"I can call it my home course for the next 51 weeks,'' he said.

Well, that is not exactly true. Augusta National will closed for the summer starting at the end of May and not reopen until October. But Bryan will be able to play the course pretty much as often as he pleases as an invitee.

And he can brag about a dramatic rise in the Official World Golf Ranking. Bryan, who earned his way onto the PGA Tour by winning three Web.com Tour events in 2016, was 116th in the world at the end of 2016. A year ago he was outside of the top 200 and at the end of 2015 he was outside of the top 1,000. He is now 37th.