Insider: Who will find the voodoo in New Orleans

By: samjack


AVONDALE, La. — They have been chasing golf balls and alligators in New Orleans since 1922 when Gene Sarazen won the Southern Open at New Orleans Country Club.
I know all about that 1922 tournament. Many years ago, I accidentally ran into the "Squire" at Chateau Elan, a golf course just outside Atlanta during Masters week. Sarazen had performed his duties as starter at Augusta National and had a business relationship with Chateau Elan
It turns out a "Voodoo Woman" had a large role in Sarazen's success. Our conversation lasted about 20 minutes, but I hung on his every word like a school boy.
On the eve of the tournament, Sarazen attended a Mardi Gras parade and was squeezed in by the crowd, eventually being pinned up against a large woman he described as a practitioner of "voodoo."
During the course of the parade, a snake handler playfully teased the lady with his reptile. Instead of being scared, the woman took the snake and in the process of draping it over her shoulders, accidentally wrapped it around Sarazen as well.
He told me he hit the ground in a combination of fright and surprise, only to be pulled to his feet by the Voodoo Woman — who then cradled the 5-foot-4 Sarazen with a suffocating hug. He was told her powers would be with him the rest of that week.
Sarazen won the Southern Open by eight shots. He told me he took part of the $1,000 first-place prize money and bought his very first suit.
Now, while 156 players in this year's field go in search of a voodoo woman with a snake, let me pass along some observations from TPC Louisiana.
Pro-am:This is the best Pro-am of the entire season. A different New Orleans restaurant caters every hole with its specialty. I have become addicted to charcoaled oysters. The over/under this week for reporters is 10. If you can gain less than 10 pounds, you have displayed remarkable discipline in the French Quarter.
Traffic flow:The 13th hole used to be a 377-yard drivable par 4. No more. The hole now stretches 403 yards. Why the change? Traffic flow. It was not uncommon to have several groups on the tee waiting to drive the green, causing an inordinate wait at a critical juncture of the round. Tournament officials think lengthening the hole will actually improve the pace of play.
Winner, winner:Isn't it about time for Charles Howell III to win again? He's having a good year and plays well at TPC Louisiana. Howell finished second in 2009 and was T13 last year. Howell also plays well in windy conditions. He has a boring ball flight that will perform well in the forecasted high winds.
Chopra, a two-time tour winner who has failed to make a cut this season, put himself in position to regain full-time status. The 66 was his first round in the 60s this season.
”The game has been fine, the results have been frustrating,” he said. ”The harder you press in this game the tougher it gets and when you get momentum going one way or the other, it’s hard to break it, and I’ve been handling it the wrong way.”
Sticker, playing alongside Watson and Simpson, birdied four of his final five holes and saved his round with a nifty up and down on his final hole, the par-3 ninth. After his tee shot landed short and right of the green, he chipped to 7 feet and made the putt.
”Getting up and down was a good momentum saver and a good way to finish the round,” Stricker said.
He was pleased to have a front-row seat for Watson’s return.
”It was interesting to see how he was going to play,” Stricker said. ”I’m sure the last two weeks have been a whirlwind I’m sure he’s tired, I’m sure his focus isn’t quite there.”
Els, playing in New Orleans for the first time since missing the cut in 2002, made the turn at 5 under, but lost a bit of momentum with a bogey on the par-3 17th. He rebounded with a birdie on his closing hole.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the Valero Texas Open.

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