AVONDALE – Saturday was another windy, gusty day at TPC Louisiana.
The second round leaders, Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith, stayed on top and came in with a third round score of 68 in the alternate shot format, giving them a three day total of 19 under par (67-62-68) and a four-stroke lead in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans over Scott Brown/Kevin Kisner (70-64-67) and Charley Hoffman/Nick Watney (67-65-69).
Kisner and Brown had the low round of the day with a five-under 67, including a five-under 31 on the back nine despite a bogey at 17.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Just being with Cameron, it’s just fun. It’s like going back to playing as a kid. You go out there and have fun and try to make birdies, and I just don’t feel like there’s any stress at all out there and there’s no pressure,” said Blixt, a two-time PGA Tour winn from Sweden
The 33-year old Blixt also is enjoying the time competing with his Aussie teammate, the younger of the pair by a decade.
“He’s always got my back and I try to have his, and I mean, the shots he hit today into the wind that he was faced with was very impressive. He hit them like a seasoned veteran. Well done,” Blixt said.
Brown and Kisner, who both reside in Aiken, South Carolina and play out of Palmetto Golf Club, have a much longer developed relationship that started when they were 10 years old in junior golf.
“We have known each other our whole lives, playing golf against each other,” Kisner started. Brown then said, “We played more rounds with each other than anybody we’ve ever played with.”
The conditions were difficult for all of pairings Saturday with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour.
“People don’t talk about the shots on the greens, it’s hard to read grain, hillside, wind and all that. Nick hit some good putts and I was fortunate to make a couple. All in all, to shoot 69 in these conditions, alternate shot, we’re really happy,” Hoffman said.
Sitting alone at 14-under par are the clear crowd favorites, Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer, if you judge by gallery size following the pair of Texans.
Spieth, recognized as golf’s premier performer on the greens, was frustrated at the number of putts he missed.
“When you get a putt where the wind is blowing one way and you’ve got the grain the other, and the hill back with the wind, you just have no idea what that putt is going to do, given the amount of
wind that was blowing out there today. If it gusts or doesn’t when you’re over it, it affects the putt by an entire cup, even from six or seven feet. It’s really a guessing game,” Spieth explained.
No one doubts he can heat up with his putter at anytime.
“It’s staying confident with your initial read, which is what I don’t think I did. Staying confident with that stroke,” said Spieth.
In this unique team format for the PGA Tour that certainly sets the Zurich Classic apart, rounds one and three are alternate shot and rounds two and four are best ball.
The crowds have been large, and there is certainly a positive vibe at TPC Louisiana. Steve Worthy, CEO of the Fore!Kids Foundation that produces the Zurich Classic said it best Friday: “Based on the reaction of the spectators and players, it is very much a success.”
The players have savored a fun atmosphere in which to compete. College teammates, brothers, lifetime friends, hometown friends and PGA Tour friends have comprised the duos who have come together to help make the Zurich Classic change a success already.
Yet on Sunday, the championship will take on a new feel with the players realizing this event counts as an official PGA Tour victory. Along with a win comes 400 FedEx Cup points and $1,000,000 in prize money for both of the winning teammates. The true shootout in the best ball format should produce drama and excitement.
New Orleans has a way of bringing people together. Congrats to the Zurich Classic, Fore!Kids Foundation and the PGA Tour for taking the road less traveled in golf to produce a winner.