The afternoon wave is on the back nine and guess what? No one has been able to catch Bubba Watson.
Webb Simpson and Matt Bettencourt each looked like they were going to make a move, but both are back to 2 under through 13 and 11 holes, respectively. Each is four shots off Watson’s lead of 10 under.
Joe Durant, who ended the first round just one shot off the lead, hasn’t made up any ground either. He’s even through 12 holes today.
Meanwhile, the cut line remains at even par. Rickie Fowler, who was on the wrong side of that number, has since moved inside the cut line by two strokes at 1 under for the tournament.
Stiff breezes out of the north created some unusual challenges at TPC Louisiana during the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
"It was unbelievable," Matt Bettencourt said. "I've never played this golf course out of the north. So it presents a different set of challenges on some holes. And there are quite a few holes on the back nine that are playing really long right now."
Bettencourt, though, managed to prosper -- preserving a round of 68 with a clutch up and down at the 18th hole. He's one stroke off Joe Durant's lead, as a result, and tied with Webb Simpson.
"It's been 15 to 20 consistently all day, sometimes even harder," Bettencourt said. "This back nine right now is really playing brutal. You've got to hold on, and par is a great score out there."
Bettencourt made five birdies while dropping just one shot to par on the Pete Dye layout. His final birdie came on the difficult 15th hole, a 490-yarder that is playing as the toughest of the day.
"The hole before was playing 220, and I was trying to hit a 4-iron wide about 190 and get it back there and roll it back," Bettencourt said. "... And 15 I basically had the same kind of shot and just nailed a 4-iron that was probably playing closer to 230.
"I saw it land on the middle and kind of funnel back there. It was a great feeling to get up there and see it about five feet from probably the hardest hole on the golf course."
Bettencourt's birdie at the 15th was the first of the day. "It's funny because when I made birdie there, Ryan Palmer told me that's a skin," he said. "So it's definitely a tough hole."
Shortly before his 11:50 a.m. ET tee time for the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Kris Blanks was assessing the conditions.
"On Tuesday and Wednesday wind blew 20-30 from the south. Today 10-20 from the north. Totally different golf course," he tweeted.
There are plenty of players who seem to be adapting well to the new “look” of TPC Louisiana, though.
Six are currently tied for the lead at 3 under -- Charlie Wi, D.J. Trahan, David Toms, Joe Durant, Matt Bettencourt and D.J. Brigman. Wi and Trahan have logged the most holes at 14.
Toms, who grew up in Shreveport and played collegiately at LSU, would be an extremely popular champion. He won the Zurich Classic a decade ago when it was played at English Turn Golf Club.
Toms, who is looking for his first win since 2006, has played in 11 Zurich Classics. He's had three top-10s, most recently a tie for fifth in 2009.
The best videos from the first round of The Heritage. We’ll update this entry all day with new videos:
|Zach Johnson birdied from the back of the green on the first||Click to watch|
|Stewart Cink rolled in a 23-footer for birdie on the 10th||Click to watch|
|Bill Haas birdied the iconic 18th to go out in 30 on Thursday||Click to watch|
|Brendan Steele was off and running in his bid to go back-to-back||Click to watch|
|Camilo Villegas chips in from 43 feet for eagle at No. 5||Click to watch|
|Fredrik Jacobson sinks 31-foot birdie putt at No. 16||Click to watch|
|Matt Kuchar rolls in 17-foot putt at No. 12||Click to watch|
AFTER THEIR ROUNDS
|Tim Herron talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Matt Bettencourt talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Arjun Atwal talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Garrett Willis talks about his 7-under 64||Click to watch|
By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Not even a car accident could keep Matt Bettencourt off the golf course this week.
Bettencourt, who shot a 65 in the first round, was involved in a car wreck on Monday as his family was driving to Hilton Head Island. A camper shell fell off the pickup truck that was in front of the Bettencourts as they drove over a big curved part of the interstate.
Bettencourt saw the camper shell blocking the lane and had nowhere to go. He swerved into an 18-wheeler in the next lane and hit the brakes hard, smashing his BMW into the truck and destroying his car.
“It was one of those things, you know,” he said. “Fortunately we were fine. That’s the most important thing. Vehicles are replaceable.”
Bettencourt’s in-laws live nearby and were on the scene in 15 minutes to pick up his wife, Kelly. Bettencourt stayed around the scene while the police finished their report and waited for the BMW to be taken to the company’s manufacturing plant.
“Those guys were great,” he said. “They took the vehicle, filled out the report there and threw me the keys to another one and there I am, here.”
The accident didn’t seem to have any long-lasting effects on Bettencourt, who lives in Duncan, S.C. He shot a 32 on the front nine and 33 on the back. His birdies came in bunches: back-to-back at No. 2 and 3, No. 5 and 6, and No. 11 and 12. He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
Bettancourt is seeking career win No. 2. He broke through last year by winning the Reno-Tahoe Open. His expectations aren’t high this week; he’s been struggling through a painful bout with bursitis and hasn’t been playing or practicing very often. He said he’s played two rounds over the last 2 ½ weeks.
“It feels good just to be out here competing and playing,” he said.
Matt Bettencourt's scorecard:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Matt Bettencourt withdrew with a right elbow injury earlier today before the start of his second round. He opened with an 80 on Thursday, shooting a 42 over his final nine holes (the front nine).
Just a few weeks ago Bettencourt tied for sixth at The Honda Classic and earlier this season he tied for fifth at the Sony Open in Hawaii for his only other top-10 of the year.
Two of the top five finishers at The Honda Classic -- winner Rory Sabbatini and Tommy Gainey, who claimed solo fifth -- were playing for the eighth consecutive week on the PGA TOUR.
They weren't alone. Among players who have earned FedExCup points, seven have played in every full-field event this season. Joining Sabbatini and Gainey are Spencer Levin, William McGirt, Jarrod Lyle, Chad Collins and Josh Teater.
Call them the Ironmen of 2011.
An eighth player, Matt Bettencourt, also has made eight starts. But unlike the other seven, he qualified for the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in early January. Bettencourt took the week off two weeks ago before returning to play the Honda Classic.
Sabbatini said Sunday night after his one-stroke win at PGA National that he will actually be playing 10 consecutive weeks. He plans to play at this week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and then the following week at the Transitions Championship.
"I think we might have to do a little conversing as to whether or not we are going to continue on to Bay Hill," he said. "My wife made me promise her that when I won, I'd take some time off."
Players usually don't play that many consecutive weeks for fear of getting worn out -- both physically and emotionally. But Sabbatini said he felt like his game was headed in the right direction and he wanted to continue building on the momentum rather than take a week off to rest.
"I felt like something good was going to happen," he said. "I guess if you flip a coin enough times, you are eventually going to end on the right side."
Gainey has two top-10 finishes in his last five starts and seems to be much closer in claiming the first TOUR win of his career. He was originally scheduled in the field at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com but withdrew late Monday morning.
Teater is scheduled to compete in Puerto Rico this week, leaving he and Sabbatini as the last Ironmen standing.
PLAYING EIGHT CONSECUTIVE WEEKS
These players have played every week on TOUR starting with the Sony Open in Hawaii, the first full-field event of 2011:
|Player||FedExCup rank||FedExCup points||Best finish in 2011|
|Rory Sabbatini||3||724||Winner, The Honda Classic|
|Spencer Levin||15||487||Playoff runner-up, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Tommy Gainey||34||268||Fifth, The Honda Classic|
|William McGirt||72||136||Tied for 19th, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Jarrod Lyle||75||132||Tied for fifth, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Chad Collins||142||50||Tied for 42nd, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Josh Teater||207||10||Tied for 63rd, Farmers Insurance Open|
Jerry Kelly may have provided the shot of the day with a 50-footer for birdie at the par-4 10th, but Rory Sabbatini has been solid all day with two birdies and nary a bogey on the scorecard through his first nine holes. As a result, Sabbatini leads by one over Kyle Stanley as he makes the turn at PGA National, where he made four birdies in the third round on Nos. 11, 13, 14 and 15.
While Sabbatini isn’t putting quite as well as he did on Friday when he took just nine putts over his final nine holes, he is making a decent share of them at 1.78 putts per green in regulation.
Others making moves here in Round 3: Matt Bettencourt is 4 under through 15 holes and now tied for fourth, while Charles Howell III has climbed 19 spots into a tie for 10th after a 67.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The Honda Classic is resembling a U.S. Open when you look at the leaderboard.
Only seven players are under par more than halfway through the morning wave as winds in excess of 20-mph are making club selection a challenge at PGA National's Champion course.
Spencer Levin leads at 3-under through 17 holes. He’s one shot ahead of Matt Bettencourt, Alex Cejka and Jeff Overton.
The course is averaging more than 3 strokes over its par of 70 (73.3).
Among the big names struggling are former Honda champions Ernie Els (5 over through 12 holes) and Luke Donald (3 over through 12) and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (4 over through 12).
Els, who had hit a PGA TOUR-leading 83.3 percent of his greens entering Thursday, has hit just 6 of 12. -- Craig Dolch
Matt Bettencourt withdrew after nine holes due to a wrist injury. He had just made two bogeys and a double bogey in his last four holes. Bettencourt came into the week ranked 86th in FedExCup points, though, so if he’s healthy, he’ll be able to play in next week’s Barclays Championship.