AVONDALE, Louisiana (AP) ― Australia’s Matt Jones chipped in from 57 feet on his final hole for a 6-under 66 and a share of the first-round lead with Bubba Watson on Thursday in the Zurich Classic.
Watson, the winner at Torrey Pines in late January, two-putted from 32 feet for eagle on the par-5 11th and had six birdies and two bogeys at TPC Louisiana.
He entered the tournament as a favor to his mother.
“My mom really wanted me to come,” Watson said. “My mom always comes to this golf tournament, so when my mom says she wants to come, I’m here. And somehow I shot 6 under today.”
K.J. Choi of South Korea hits his tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on April 28, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (AFP-Yonhap News)
The course is far from his favorite.
“The way the course is, it just doesn’t fit my eye the way it is,” Watson said. “It’s a great golf course, a great layout. For me it’s just not one that I want to play every day.
“Today, it just worked out. I hit my driver really well. I’ve been hitting it good all year, but I made some putts and hit some good iron shots and somehow came out 6 under.”
Jones had eight birdies and two bogeys. Playing the back nine first, he reeled off four consecutive birdies beginning at the par-4 16th. He followed with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th, an 11-footer on the 18th and a 20-foot putt on the first.
Watson and Jones played in the afternoon in better scoring conditions after a strong north wind made morning play more difficult.
“The guys set it up pretty well with the conditions that we had out there with the wind and everything,” Jones said. “The greens are perfect. And I played well. ... I actually made a lot of putts today and chipped in on the last to finish the round, which is good.”
Joe Durant, Tommy Gainey, Carl Pettersson, John Rollins, Nick O’Hern and David Duval opened with 67s. Durant played in the morning.
Luke Donald, who lost in a playoff last week at Hilton Head in a bid to jump from No. 3 to No. 1 in the world, shot a 68 to match Matt Bettencourt, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Charles Howell and 2002 winner K.J. Choi. Hilton Head winner Brandt Snedeker opened with a 77. He had a triple bogey on the par-3 ninth when he hit his tee shot in the water.
Rickie Fowler and Steve Stricker shot 70s, U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had a 73, and Vijay Singh opened with a 74. Singh, critical of the Pete Dye-designed layout, had a double bogey on the 18th hole.
John Daly struggled to a 9-over 81. Daly was 2 over through 14 holes, then played his last four in 7 over. He had a triple bogey on the par-4 16th after hitting two shots into the water.