AVONDALE, La. — Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are a good team even when they’re playing for cash and not just a flag.
Cantlay holed a 25-foot eagle putt early and chipped in from 40 feet for birdie late, while Schauffele contributed six birdies of his own, and their three straight birdies to close gave them a 13-under 59 in fourballs Thursday to lead the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
It set a tournament record since the Zurich Classic switched to team play in 2017, and the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup partners were willing to claim a piece of golf’s magic number.
“I haven’t done it before. I don’t think Pat has, either. I’ll count in my book,” Schauffele said.
They had a one-shot lead over the team of Matthew NeSmith and Taylor Moore. The group at 61 included Robert Garrigus and Tommy Gainey, and Aaron Rai and David Lipsky, two teams that have had their share of activity off the course.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and Ryan Palmer were five shots behind at 64.
The second round moves to foursomes, and while alternate is the more difficult of the format, Cantlay and Schauffele have put together a 4-0 mark in their partnerships at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne and the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
“It’s just the first quarter. We’re only one ahead,” Cantlay said. “But we are going into a format on Friday that we really like – I think Xander and I really like alternate shot. It’s one of our strengths for the week, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Moore was lucky to have much strength at all.
He was in the emergency room Wednesday morning from food poisoning, got some fluids and nausea medicine and finally was able to keep some food down Thursday morning.
“Just tried to finish every hole,” Moore said. “That was kind of a win within its own right.”
Lipsky avoided the hospital, though he was involved in a car accident earlier in the week. Turns out there was a car in front of him that had broken down, and as Lipsky went to change lanes he said the driver behind him slammed on the brakes and hit him.
“I’m all right. I think the other two drivers were fine,” Lipsky said. “Yeah, I was a little bit of a hectic beginning to the week.”
The surprise was Garrigus and Gainey, both sponsor exemptions, joining the group at 61. Garrigus was in the news earlier in the week when Golfweek reported and Golf Channel confirmed with Garrigus that he is applying for a conflicting event release to play in the first Saudi-funded LIV Golf competition.
The PGA Tour has until May 10 to decide whether to grant him a release to play in London a week before the U.S. Open. The top players — that would not include Garrigus, whose world ranking is at No. 1,043 — have said they are not interested in the Greg Norman-run league offering a $20 million purse and $4 million to the winner.
Garrigus told Golf Channel that he was focused only on the Zurich Classic, and plenty of focus appeared to be in place. Gainey contributed six birdies, while Garrigus had five.
That was the trick on a windy day at the TPC Louisiana, both players contributing. Cantlay and Schauffele — who have gone on vacations together when they weren’t representing their country in the cups — were extremely effective on the greens.
Only three of their 11 sub-par holes were from putts inside 10 feet.
“We played really well, made a lot of putts today on a day that was a little tricky with the wind and didn’t birdie a lot of the same holes,” Cantlay said. “When you do that in this format, that’s really the key.”
Equally impressive was the father-son duo of Jay and Bill Haas. The 68-year-old father had four of their seven birdies, three of them from the 15-foot range, in their 65.