Clark-Hossler, O’Hair-Matthews share Zurich lead

AVONDALE, La. — The teams of Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler, and Sean O’Hair and Brandon Matthews, each shot an 11-under 61 in the better-ball format on Thursday to tie for a one-shot lead through the first round of Zurich Classic.

The 40-year-old O’Hair has four PGA Tour wins, the last in 2011. Matthews, 28, has never finished higher than 35th.

The highlight of their round — if not the entire day — was Matthews’ eagle on the par-4 12th hole. He launched a 313-yard drive into the fairway, then holed a wedge from 135 yards.

“Sean played really a stress-free round of golf himself, and that took a lot of pressure off me,” Matthews said. “I could attack little bit more.”

Clark and Hossler combined for 11 birdies — seven by Hossler — at the TPC Louisiana.

While the 28-year-old Hossler and 29-year-old Clark do not have a PGA Tour victory between them, both have several top-20 finishes this season. Clark finished fifth at the Valspar Championship. Hossler tied for 11th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

“Our games complement each other,” Clark said. “We both are good putters, both have a good short game, and then I kind of fade it and he kind of draws it. So, it’s a good mix.”

Matt Fitzpatrick, fresh off last weekend’s victory at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina, combined with his younger brother, Alex, for a 62 – tied with four other teams.

“It’s as much fun as I’ve had on the golf course in, well, about four days, to be fair,” Matt Fitzpatrick said.

Also shooting 62 were the teams of Sungjae Im and Keith Michell, David Lipsky and Aaron Rai, Luke List and Henrik Norlander, and Michael Kim and Seung-yul Noh. Noh won at the TPC Louisiana in 2014, before the tournament became a team event.

Rai carried his team with an eagle and seven birdies.

Six teams were two shots off the lead, including the tandem of Sahith Theegala and Justin Suh. There were more than a dozen eagles across the field on a dry, sunny and breezy day – two by Theegala on seventh and 18th, both par 5s. Theegala also made a 69-foot birdie from the fringe on the par-3 ninth.

The 24-year-old Alex Fitzpatrick is a former Wake Forest player who turned pro last June and plays primarily on the second-tier Challenge Tour in Europe. To play the Zurich, he needed a sponsor exemption, which tournament organizers gladly granted to ensure the participation of his 28-year-old brother, who is also the defending U.S. Open champion.

Alex, who could earn a PGA Tour card with a win, pulled his own weight around the Pete Dye-designed, 7,425-yard course built in cypress swamps outside New Orleans.

The Fitzpatrick brothers each made five birdies, with Alex making three straight during the English tandem’s final five holes.

“He played great on the back nine, and he bailed me out a few times,” Matt Fitzpatrick said.

Play switches to the more challenging alternate-shot format for Friday’s second round. After the cut, the format will again go to better ball for the third round and back alternate shot for the final round.

The team of Sam Burns and Billy Horschel was among 16 teams that shot a 64. Burns and Horschel were runners-up at the Zurich a year ago, finishing two shots back.

Burns twice reached par-5 greens in two (on the seventh and 18th). But he missed both eagle putts. Their eight birdies were highlighted by a 30-foot putt from Horschel.

“It was a good round, but also a frustrating round,” Burns said. “Other than the putt Billy made on 3, we didn’t really make many putts. I would say we played better than what we shot.”

Defending champions Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele started slowly and were 1-over through six before birdies on six of their next seven holes. But they alternated bogeys and birdies on their final four holes to finish at 5-under.

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