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Zurich Classic 2021: Garnett-Stallings, Hovland-Ventura Share Lead After Round 1

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2021

Viktor Hovland, of Norway, watches his shot not the first hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament on Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Two teams carded a 62 in Round 1 Thursday to lead the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura finished 10 strokes under par in the early session to enter the clubhouse in first place, but Brice Garnett and Scott Stallings matched the mark to earn a share of first at TPC Louisiana.

The unique tournament features teams instead of individual play, with the first and third rounds consisting of four-ball where everyone plays their own shot and the best score counts. The second and fourth rounds will feature foursome play, or alternate shot.

The tournament remains wide-open, with seven other pairings just one stroke behind in a tie for third place, including Tony Finau and Cameron Champ as well as Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. 

       

Round 1 Leaderboard

T1. Viktor Hovland/Kris Ventura (-10)

T1. Brice Garnett/Scott Stallings (-10)

T3. Tony Finau/Cameron Champ (-9)

T3. Billy Horschel/Sam Burns (-9)

T3. Keegan Bradley/Brendan Steele (-9)

T3. Kyoung-Hoon Lee/Kyle Stanley (-9)

T3. Mark Hubbard/Sebastian Cappelen (-9)

T3. Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (-9)

T3. Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith (-9)

T10. Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (-8)

T10. Bubba Watson/Scottie Scheffler (-8)

Full leaderboard and stats available at PGATour.com.

              

It's often difficult to rely on someone else as part of a two-man team, but four-ball allows golfers to be more aggressive while knowing their partner can pick them up if needed.

Garnett and Stallings used this strategy to perfection with 10 birdies on the day, each player earning five in a balanced effort.

The Norwegian team of Hovland and Ventura also had 10 birdies, including nine in the final 12 holes. While Hovland is the bigger name of the two, Ventura was the better player Thursday with seven of the birdies while helping the pairing produce low numbers all day. If he can keep this up for four rounds, he can win the first PGA Tour title of his career alongside his compatriot.

There was a similar story with Billy Horschel and Sam Burns. The former is in the top 10 of the FedEx standings, but it was Burns who shined in Round 1 with nine birdies and excellent all-around play:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

To take the outright lead. 🎯 Easy birdie for @SamBurns66 and @BillyHo_Golf to move to -8. https://t.co/YgSxJaWjjs

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

5 birdies in 6 holes. 🔥 Everything's clicking for Team Burns-Horschel. https://t.co/lXKBwxctHD

Horschel's scores were only used twice in the back nine, but his team remains in contention through the first day.

The veteran South African team of Schwartzel and Oosthuizen also played well to get to minus-nine.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

4 birdies on their last 5 holes. 💪 Team Schwartzel-Oosthuizen are two back. https://t.co/2hPhho2v7i

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith are in a tie for third place thanks in part to this long eagle putt:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

3-under thru TWO holes. 💥 Cameron Smith drains a 38-foot putt for eagle @Zurich_Classic. https://t.co/6EImacOUDQ

Finau and Champ are another team to watch after they combined for a 63 Thursday. Both players came through with big moments in Round 1 and each have the ability to drive it a long way off the tee.

Success in this tournament will likely come down to consistent putting for the young Americans. 

The aggressive strategy also led to some impressive moments throughout the field, including Tyler Duncan hitting a 68-foot putt for eagle:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

62 feet❗️🦅 @TDuncGolf with some fireworks before the turn. https://t.co/hpAN1swpxq

Bubba Watson hit an eagle on No. 2, although he was inches away from an albatross:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Finished what he started. 🦅 https://t.co/3FhSzKVO4A

Watson and Scottie Scheffler got to eight strokes under par to sit just two strokes off the lead. They are tied with Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, the only team in the field with two top-10 players in the world rankings.

With 37 teams at least six strokes under par, the tournament should remain extremely competitive. Friday's alternate-shot play could help separate the leaderboard more going into the weekend.

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