Staff reports

Three of the top 10  players in the World Golf Rankings—Graeme McDowell, (5), Steve Stricker (8) and Luke Donald (9)—have made early commitments to playing the Zurich Classic of New Orleans April 25-May 1.

They will be joined by a host of top-ranked players that include 2010 champion Jason Bohn and early 2011 PGA TOUR winners Jhonny Vegas and Bubba Watson, announced tournament director Tommy Fonseca.

Other high-profile players already committed include four of the TOUR’s top rising young stars, Rickie Fowler,  Camilo Villegas, Ben Crane and Justin Rose.

In addition, former Zurich Classic winner David Toms, who won in New Orleans in 2001 and later that year triumphed in the PGA Championship; Vijay Singh, the 2004 Zurich Classic champion and winner of three majors in his career and Nick Watney, the 2007 Zurich Classic winner, have also committed early this year.

“The support of a strong title sponsor in Zurich Financial Services, combined with the attraction of New Orleans, our new dates and the reputation of the Fore!Kids Foundation have combined to draw some of the top names on the PGA TOUR right from the start,” said Fonseca, who also serves as president of the Fore!Kids Foundation, producer of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. “Based on our early commitments and the feedback received from our initial recruiting trips, we expect more announcements in the next few weeks that will make this year’s field the best in anyone’s memory,” he said.

“The presence of top stars like these will draw bigger audiences to the Zurich Classic  to help generate more funds for the children’s charities that are supported by the Fore!Kids Foundation,” added Fonseca.

The last two Zurich Classic champions, Jason Bohn (2010) and Jerry Kelly (2009), have also already committed to play this year.

Graeme McDowell is 5th overall in the World, 29th in the FedExCup standings and posted 2010 as his career winning year. He was 3rd in this year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Steve Stricker is 8th overall in the World, 27th in the FedExCup standings, and also tied for 4th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and 9th in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Luke Donald is 9th in the World standings,  22nd in the FedExCup standings and was a member of the winning European Ryder Cup team in 2010.

Jhonny Vegas is 76th in the world, 3rd  in the FedExCup standings and won the Bob Hope Classic earlier this year.

Bubba Watson is 19th  in the world standings, 4th in the FedEx standings and won the Farmers Insurance Open this year.

Rickie Fowler is 29th in the world and 59th in the FedExCup standings and recently placed 13th in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Camilo Villegas, one of golf’s most popular players, is a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR, including the 2010 Honda Classic. He is currently ranked 43rd in the world.

Vijay Singh has won the Masters once and the PGA Championship twice. He is currently 18th in FedExCup standings after finishing third in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Nick Watney, the 2007 Zurich Classic champion, has already recorded three top 10 finishes this year. He will celebrate his 30th birthday April 25, the day of the Wednesday Pro-Am.

Justin Rose won two tournaments last year—the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance and the AT&T Classic—and currently ranks 34th in the world and 36th in FedExCup points.

Ben Crane, winner of the 2010 Farmers Insurance Open, is ranked 39th in the world and 38th  in FedExCup standings.