Here's a simple equation: The world's best players + a scoring-friendly format + ideal scoring conditions = birdies. Lots of them.
Thursday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the lone team event on the PGA Tour schedule, was a certified birdie-fest as teams played best-ball in perfect conditions at TPC Louisiana. The team of Lucas Glover and Chez Reavie are tied with the team of Xinjun Zhang and Zecheng Dou, each shooting a 12-under 60, while six teams were two shots back at 10-under 62.
Here are three quick thoughts from round one.
These guys are damn good
I know it's a cliche—it's quite literally the PGA Tour's slogan—but Thursday was a testament to just how many birdies these guys can make in a format that allows them to pin hunt. (In best-ball, it's common for one player on a hole to play the safe route, which frees up the other guy to attack every flag.) At the time of writing, only one of the 80 two-man teams were over par: John Merrick and Martin Flores, and they were only one-over. The next-worse score posted was two-under 70.
Conditions were absolutely perfect on Thursday, and scores will be significantly higher on average in tomorrow's alternate shot round. But it was really something to watch birdie after birdie after birdie pour in all day. In about a month-and-a half's time at the U.S. Open, when these same players are struggling to make pars and moaning about how hard Shinnecock is, remember today.
Solid first round back for Brooks Koepka
Reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is making his first start since a 15-week absence due to a wrist injury this week, and he's teaming up Marc Turnesa, who has played in just one PGA Tour event this year and is currently ranked 1929th in the world. Koepka looked really fit and played solidly, making five birdies, but he didn't get much help from Turnesa, who made only one birdie and would have shot around 80 had he played his own ball all day. Koepka carried the team to a five-under 67, and while Turnesa's form will almost certainly keep this team from contending, it's encouraging to see Koepka out there making birdies.
Let's see a scramble
The tournament committee at the Zurich has shown a willingness to adapt the tournament's format. This year, the teams will play best-ball on Thursday and Saturday—and alternate shot on Friday and Sunday—while last year it was the other way around. Some reporters on the ground this week said there were murmurs of adding a scramble to the mix. For those unfamiliar: In a scramble, each player hits a tee shot. The team then selects which ball it wants to play, and both players hit the next shot from that spot. So on, so forth. The team basically gets two attempts at every shot.
If you thought today was a birdie-fest, just imagine how low these guys would take it in a scramble. What would the lowest score be? 58? 57?! This week is already refreshingly different—that's why 18 of the world's top 30 players are in the field—so why not fully embrace the different-ness and see how low these guys can go in a scramble?