Daily Wrap-up: Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Round 1text sizeApril 26, 2012
Staff and wire reports
AVONDALE, La. -- Ken Duke and Cameron Tringale topped the Zurich Classic of New Orleans leaderboard at 7-under 65 on Thursday, leaving defending champion Bubba Watson six strokes back at TPC Louisiana in his first tournament since winning the Masters.
Tringale birdied the final four holes and finished the round with eight birdies and a bogey. Duke had seven birdies in a bogey-free round. Both players are winless on the PGA TOUR.
"My game felt really nice for quite some time and don't know how to explain it," Tringale said. "Just playing with a little confidence and it goes a long way in this game. ... When I had chances to make birdies I was making them and made a couple 20-footers as well. So, turned into a good day."
Steve Stricker, Ernie Els, Daniel Chopra and Chris Stroud were a stroke back at 66. Ben Curtis, the Valero Texas Open winner Sunday in San Antonio, was another shot behind along with John Rollins and Jason Dufner.
Webb Simpson, a playoff loser last year in the event, had a 68.
Watson had four birdies and three bogeys in his 71.
Watson, playing the back nine first, was 2 over through the first seven holes. He birdied the par-5 18th and followed with three more birdies and a bogey on the front nine.
"I'm very exhausted, tough trying to play golf today," said Watson, who took a two-week break after the Masters. "I can't hit a full swing yet."
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World No. 2 Luke Donald opened with a 73.
Tringale, coming off eighth-place finishes in the Shell Houston Open and at TPC San Antonio, made the turn at 2 under and had a 5-under 31 on the back nine, highlighted by a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 15th and a 20-footer on the difficult par-3 17th.
Duke, attempting to make the most of his opportunity after a two-year exile on the Nationwide Tour, made three consecutive birdies on the front nine to make the turn at 3 under and birdied the par-5 11th and par-4 12th to get it to 5 under. He added birdies on the par-4 16th and par-5 18th.
"The greens were good. Weren't too fast," Duke said. "You can't have them too fast here because of the wind and it will really will smack you. They're hole-able, receptive. The course is in good shape, great shape."
Chopra, a two-time tour winner who has failed to make a cut this season, put himself in position to regain full-time status. The 66 was his first round in the 60s this season.
"The game has been fine, the results have been frustrating," he said. "The harder you press in this game the tougher it gets and when you get momentum going one way or the other, it's hard to break it, and I've been handling it the wrong way."
Shot of the Day: Harman
Brian Harman's tee shot hits the flagstick on the par-3 9th hole.
Sticker, playing alongside Watson and Simpson, birdied four of his final five holes and saved his round with a nifty up and down on his final hole, the par-3 ninth. After his tee shot landed short and right of the green, he chipped to 7 feet and made the putt.
"Getting up and down was a good momentum saver and a good way to finish the round," Stricker said.
He was pleased to have a front-row seat for Watson's return.
"It was interesting to see how he was going to play," Stricker said. "I'm sure the last two weeks have been a whirlwind I'm sure he's tired, I'm sure his focus isn't quite there."
Els, playing in New Orleans for the first time since missing the cut in 2002, made the turn at 5 under, but lost a bit of momentum with a bogey on the par-3 17th. He rebounded with a birdie on his closing hole.
TPC Louisiana: Thursday EASIEST HOLE TOUGHEST HOLE The par-5 7th hole was the easiest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.494.
EAGLES: 4 BIRDIES: 81 PARS: 62 BOGEYS: 8 OTHER: 1
The par-4 6th hole was the toughest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.314.
EAGLES: 0 BIRDIES: 17 PARS: 85
BOGEYS: 43 OTHERS: 11
About the leaders • Ken Duke is looking for his third top 10 of the season (T7/AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, T5/Transitions Championship). He had five top-10 finishes in each of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. • Duke is making his sixth career start in New Orleans. His best finish is second at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2007 (Nick Watney). • Duke finished seventh on the 2011 Nationwide Tour money list to earn his PGA TOUR card for 2012. • Tringale is looking for his third straight top-10 finish and fourth overall this season. He finished T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open and in his last two starts finished T8 at both the Shell Houston Open and Valero Texas Open. • Tringale is making his 67th start on TOUR in his third full season. He did not have a top 10 during his rookie season in 2010, but bounced back in 2011 with four. • In two previous starts at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Tringale finished T28 in 2010 and T18 in 2011.
"It was a tough day. You had to be on your game," said Els, who has two top-five finishes in his past four starts. "Good start and just kept at it."