Over this French Quarter offering with a Brennan’s Seafood File Gumbo appetizer followed by Classic Crawfish Etoufee from Chef K-Paul’s along with Souffle Potatoes from Arnaud’s followed by a huge chunk of Banana Crème Pie from Emeril’s, these Zurich Classic additives:
It can be a bit difficult to tell exactly what’s transpiring when you throw two-man teams into the mixing bowl at the Zurich Classic. We’re here today to make some sense of the first day’s action out there at the TPC Louisiana where the gators were plentiful and some of the beasts took to sunning themselves in the fairways.
First thing that needs to be considered is that 72 is not par in an event like this. Par is more like 68 in the best-ball format because you’d expect tour-caliber players to birdie all the par fives. So 68 is our par for this discussion.
The Chinese Surprise:
Bet here is that if you poll the crowd, 99 percent won’t be able to pronounce the name of one of the teams tied for the first round lead. That would be Xinjun Zhang and Zecheng Dou. No doubt Chinese names give spell-check raging fits. Still, these guys were red-hot, don’t know if it’s politically correct to use that designation for players from the country formerly known as Red China. They combined to shoot 60, officially 12 under par but only eight-under by what our “team par” designation is.
Louisiana folks will be scarfing down an extra beignet before they head out to see the second round because Chez Reavie, the Louisiana guy, is tied at the top along with his partner, the surprising Lucas Glover. Glover’s game has been steadily recovering, you’re seeing his name more often these days since his post-U.S. Open disappearance.
Tony Finau’s Just Fine:
Tony Finau’s back after that nasty turned-ankle at The Masters. He’s obviously feeling well and he and Daniel Summerhays, aka Team Utah, were once of six teams who shot 10-under par 62, which is really eight-under by our designated “team par.”
Look for Team Britain — Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Paisley to make a run this week. Two quality players from the European Tour who you might see on the European Ryder Cup team in September.
The Big Bust:
Before we go further, one of the pre-tournament favorites had themselves one miserable showing on Thursday. Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley — Team Alabama — would surely get a butt-chewing from Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban after they went without making a single birdie on a par five. If that wasn’t bad enough, they managed just two birdies, shot 70 and found themselves in next-to-last position and in danger of heading to Bourbon Street early come Friday afternoon. A Big Bust in the Big Easy by this pair.
If the cut to 35 teams came after the first round, it would have taken six-under par to make it and that’s probably a good number to consider as a standard given Friday’s alternate-shot format won’t see the low-scoring barrage from Thursday. Patrick Reed is back with partner Pat Cantlay, they’re in at 65. Reed looked okay. He made just three birdies on his own ball and would have shot 70. Nothing great, still a bit weary from his post-Masters tour.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson bounced back a bit with a 65. They were one of the pre-tournament favorites last year and embarrassingly missed the 36-hole cut. Given their ball-striking skills, you’d expect them to work their way closer to the top on Friday.
One eye-opening team that shot seven-under was the team of David Duval and Jim Furyk. All these teams selected “walk-up” music for the first tee. Best song for this pair might have been Neil Young’s “Old Man.”
Big Names Need To Rally:
Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer opened with 66 but Spieth felt they should make a move on day two. “Alternate shot is a strong format for us,” Spieth said after their opening round.
Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan were also in a huge group at 66 while defending champions Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt shot 65 to keep themselves in contention.
Friday will bring a big separation with alternate shot.
We’re making the alternate shot par at 70.
There’s won’t be any 60s on Friday.