Brice Garnett and Scott Stallings birdied eight of their last 11 holes, Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura birdied nine of their last 12, and the two teams shot 10-under 62 in Zurich Classic to share the first-round lead Thursday.
“Kris decided to heat up his putter. That really helped,” Hovland said. “But I felt like we really played solid golf all 18 holes.”
Ventura made a 36-foot birdie putt from the periphery on 15 and a 19-footer on 16 for his seventh and last birdie of the day in the best-ball design played on the first and third rounds. Players will substitute shots in the second and last rounds.
Garnett hit approach shots within 7 feet on the first, second, fourth and fifth holes and made each of the four birdie putts after his team made the turn following a back-nine beginning. Stallings’ birdie putt from almost 18 feet on the eighth hole pulled his team into a tie on the leaderboard.
“We had a tale of two nines,” said Stallings, who made half of his team’s 10 birdies. “It was nice we didn’t birdie the same hole ever, and that’s what you have to do. We did a great job of that today.”
Hovland began the Norwegian couple’s run up the leaderboard via landing a shot from the bunker left of the green within 4 feet to birdie the par-5 seventh.
Ventura birdied Nos. 8, 9 and 11 – featured by his 9-foot putt on the par-3 ninth – before Hovland put a 194-yard approach on 12 within 2 feet to set up another birdie. Hovland likewise birdied the par-5 18th.
Seven teams shot 63, including two-time Zurich champion Billy Horschel and his partner, Louisiana native and previous LSU player Sam Burns.
Tony Finau and Cameron Champ, who had a back-nine beginning in similar group as Horschel and Burns, birdied the seventh and eighth holes to join the third-place teams.
Cameron Smith, who won the Zurich during its first year as a team event in 2017, made a 38-foot eagle putt on the par-5 second hole to help him and fellow Australian Marc Leishman post a 63. Smith likewise had six of his team’s seven birdies.
“I’ll probably buy dinner tonight after that exhibition he put on,” Leishman said. “He’s definitely owed that.”
Louis Oosthuizen almost put his methodology shot in the water on 18, yet then contributed from a steep embankment for birdie to pull himself and his colleague, individual South African Charl Schwartzel, into a tie for second.
Likewise at 63 were the teams of Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley; Sebastian Cappelen and Mark Hubbard; and Kyle Stanley and Kyoung-Hoon Lee.
Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay – the only team with two players ranked in the world’s top 10 – completed among a handful of teams at 64, including the pair of Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler.
A cool breeze from the north that had various players wearing long sleeves – exceptional in late April in south Louisiana – likewise chillingly affected the expected danger taking that can happen in the best-ball design. That was especially the situation on the 403-yard 13th hole, where players elected to aim for the fairway to one side of a gigantic cypress tree rather go directly at the green over a waste shelter to one side of the tree.
“This course isn’t really designed to play in this wind,” Horschel said, also noting he did appreciate temperatures in the 60s for much of the round. “It was nice to see Sam have a really good round because he’s been playing well … and I just made sure I didn’t do anything stupid.”
Reigning champs Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm shot 65.