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.
Carl Pettersson has joined Vaughn Taylor and Joe Durant at the top of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans leaderboard.
Pettersson and Taylor have each completed 11 holes this afternoon; the former starting on the front and the latter on the back nine. Neither has made a bogey at TPC Louisiana.
Durant is safely in the clubhouse.
John Rollins and Bubba Watson are also making moves this afternoon. Both are 4 under, Rollins through 12 holes and Watson through 10.
The 15th hole continues to be the most difficult during the first round of the Zurich Classic. The 490-yard par 4 is playing .409 strokes over par midway through the afternoon wave.
"Today it was dead into the wind," said Joe Durant, the clubhouse leader after posting a 67. "I hit a really good drive there and still had 225 which was playing almost 250. It was into the teeth of the wind. I hit a really good 5 wood to the back left corner of the green, made my two putt and got out of there.
"I knew 4 there was going to be a good score."
David Toms certainly would have taken it.
"I couldn't even reach it today," he said. "And I said, does it count as not a green in regulation if you can't reach the green? I mean, come on.
"But I hit two of my best shots and didn't get there, so that hole was brutal."
And that was hardly the only challenge. Durant said the par-3 14th was playing dead into the wind, too.
"I didn't have a club for that one," he said. "I tried to hit a 3-iron and missed the green short but was fortunate to get up and down.
"Those were probably the two hardest holes back to back today."
Joe Durant figured it couldn't hurt. After all, he'd only cashed two checks in nine starts this year.
So the 47-year-old decided to change his shafts in his irons earlier this week, and the move paid big dividends on Thursday when he shot a 67 in the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
The round of six birdies and just one bogey gave Durant the clubhouse lead on a breezy day at TPC Louisiana. He was one shot ahead of Webb Simpson and Matt Bettencourt when the morning wave had finished.
"I'm using the same iron head," Durant explained. "I just changed shafts this week, because I was having trouble this year flighting the ball down. I've been hitting a lot of up-shooting type shots, which is not normal for me.
"So the shaft change has helped me tremendously. I can see the ball coming out with the proper trajectory now. Made a big difference, especially when it's windy like here."
Thursday's wind wasn't nearly as fierce as it had been the day before when Durant noted “they almost had to name the storm." That said, the breezes were coming from a different direction -- but it didn't confuse the veteran, who is playing in his 15th Zurich Classic.
"I think I just stayed very patient today," Durant said. "Some of the pins were in some difficult spots so you had to kind of shoot away from them.
"I just took what the course gave me today. I had a couple of good opportunities that I was able to capitalize on. Like I said earlier, the wind was in a total different direction, so it was almost like a new golf course today.
"But I played well. I played around here enough to know what it's going to do with different winds, and I just had a game plan for the north wind, so it worked out pretty well."
Durant's round was even more impressive considering he only birdied one of TPC Louisiana's four par 5s. "So, yeah, that's encouraging that I didn't really attack the fives that great and still shot 5 under," he said. "Maybe I can get them tomorrow."
By the time he finished off his round, Durant said the wind had lost some of its intensity. He expected scoring to improve in the afternoon, as a result.
"There will be some good numbers this afternoon," Durant said. "I wouldn't be surprised. I don't think 5 under will be leading at the end of the day. I think somebody can shoot 6 or 7. But they're just drying out, too, so it will be tough to tell."
Joe Durant hasn’t exactly had a banner couple of months. Thursday, however, he took a big step toward changing that with a 5-under 67 to take the early clubhouse lead.
On the day, Durant hardly missed a shot, hitting 13 fairways and 16 greens in regulation on his way to six birdies and just one bogey.
That’s a big improvement from his last six starts in which he’s missed the cut four times, withdrawn once and finished in a tie for 37th (at the Transitions Championship).
In fact, this year hasn’t been kind to Durant with six missed cuts in nine starts. His best finish was a tie for 20th at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Thursday’s round gives Durant a one-shot lead over Matt Bettencourt and Webb Simpson -- they each shot 68 -- and a two-shot advantage over Charley Hoffman, Billy Mayfair and Rickie Fowler.
Joe Durant has just birdied three straight holes to seize sole possession of the lead midway through the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
He made the turn in 34 after a bogey at the ninth hole. But Durant shook off that disappointment in a big way with a birdie putts of 17, 26 and 11 feet on the first three holes of the back nine at TPC Louisiana.
The 47-year-old veteran is a four-time winner on TOUR with his most recent victory coming in the 2006 FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World Resort. He’s 5 under and two strokes ahead of Matt Bettencourt, Charley Hoffman, Billy Mayfair, Webb Simpson and D.J. Brigman.
This year hasn't been one of Durant’s best, so this start is cause for optimism. He tied for 20th at the Farmers Insurance Open and 37th at the Transitions Championship but those are the only two checks he's cashed in nine starts.
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.
Joe Durant just finished a typical round for him -- one in which he missed only one fairway and three greens -- to shoot 66, matching his best round of the season.
Durant, who didn't make a bogey, has made just one cut in six tries this year. As he nears his 47th birthday next month, he's still among the best ball-strikers on TOUR, but his putting (179th on TOUR) has been spotty for years.
Durant said the lack of wind at the Copperhead Course helped.
"It was perfect conditions for us. We had very little wind," Durant said. "The greens were receptive and they were rolling good."
Joe Durant doesn’t have the length off the tee to compete on some courses. What he lacks in distance, though, he makes up for in accuracy. Case in point: He’s first in the field this week in fairways hit, having missed just five all week (89 percent).
And even when Durant, who is currently just one shot back, has missed the short grass, he hasn’t missed by much with an average of 13 feet from the edge of the fairway. And in the last two rounds, he didn’t missed the fairway by more than 8 feet on his two missed tee shots. See below for more. -- Brian Wacker
Joe Durant Off the Tee – This Week
|Stat||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Avg. Distance from edge||22 feet||8 feet||2 feet|
It’s one of those obvious statements, but keeping the ball in the fairway and hitting the green is what a player needs to do at Sea Island to have success. Just look at the leaderboard with David Toms, currently leading at 12 under after a couple of birdies on his front nine, Heath Slocum, Troy Merritt and Joe Durant.
All are in the top 10 in the field in fairways, greens or both with Durant leading the field and both and not having missed a fairway or a green through his first eight holes today.
Through two rounds, Toms missed just one green in regulation on the front nine and three on the back 9 and today he hasn’t missed a green while missing just two fairways through eight holes.
As you can see by the numbers below, it’s a big part of why he’s leading right now. -- Brian Wacker
David Toms - This Week vs. 2010 Season vs. The Field
|Stat||This Week||2010 Season||Field Average|
|Driving accuracy||75 percent (T25)||72 percent (7)||68 percent|
|Greens in regulation||89 percent (T4)||67 percent (82)||74 percent|
|Proximity to hole||30 feet, 2 inches (T28)||32 feet, 8 inches (8)||33 feet, 9 inches|
|Putting average||1.594 (2)||1.757 (T34)||1.809|
|Putting inside 10 feet||28 of 29 (14)||88 percent (70)||88 percent|
|Putts made over 10 feet||8 (T2)||107 (T43)||4.17|
|Putting 10-15 feet||5 of 8 (11)||33 percent (52)||33 percent|
|Feet of putts made||114 feet, 8 inches (10)||73 feet, 2 inches (T69)||83 feet, 2 inches|
|Total birdies||14 (1)||298 (T35)||6.8|