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Apr 24, 2024 4:47 pm

Nick Hardy, Davis Riley set to defend at Zurich Classic

Nick Hardy, Davis Riley zurich

If the PGA Tour has gotten repetitive to some fans — another day, another Scottie Scheffler runaway — the Zurich Classic of New Orleans offers something different for one week only.

Teeing off Thursday at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., the Zurich is entering its seventh year as the tour’s only two-man team event.

Eighty teams are registered for the event and will play two different formats. On Thursday and Saturday, it will be four-ball (best ball), and on Friday and Sunday, they’ll change over to the more difficult foursomes (alternate shot).

Scheffler has the week off after following up his Masters victory with a win at the RBC Heritage, his fourth win in five starts. But World No. 2 Rory McIlroy is making his tournament debut, teaming up with Shane Lowry for an Irish-themed pairing.

“Shane and I have played in a couple of Ryder Cup teams together, and we thought it would be fun to team up together again in something like this,” McIlroy said. “As Shane said, this is my 17th year as a professional golfer, and to be able to still do things for the first time like play in this event and experience something like this is pretty cool.”

Of note, McIlroy and Lowry have played only one Ryder Cup session together, losing to Tony Finau and Harris English in four-ball when the Americans won in 2021.

Some other pairings are familiar by now, including Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. The friends are the only top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking teaming up together; they won in 2022 and tied for fourth last season.

Nick Hardy and Davis Riley arrived at TPC Louisiana last year having never won on the PGA Tour. They proceeded to set a tournament record at 30-under 258 for a two-shot win over Canadians Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor.

“The golf course really rewards I think good iron play and good ball-striking,” Hardy said, “because a lot of times when you miss around a green here, you can have some tougher up and-downs to elevated greens and chipping downhill and on slopes, and the greens can get a little tricky if you miss on the edges. I think keeping alternate shot pretty stress-free is a plus, and then just kind of having fun in best ball and making as many birdies as you can.”

Will Zalatoris will play with Sahith Theegala in a pairing of young American up-and-comers, while Collin Morikawa is partnering with Kurt Kitayama.

There are three brother-brother duos in the field, as Englishmen Matt and Alex Fitzpatrick will compete again; twins Parker and Pierceson Coody, both PGA Tour rookies, will play for the first time; and Danish twins Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard will make their debut two weeks after Nicolai Hojgaard was a surprise contender at the Masters before tying for 16th.

Billy Horschel is glad to be back at a course where he can thrive. Horschel snapped a nearly two-year winless drought last week at the Corales Puntacana Championship, the alternate event opposite the Heritage. He is the only player to win the Zurich both as an individual (2013) and a team (2018, with Scott Piercy).

Horschel will play with Tyson Alexander this week after Sam Burns dropped out because his wife is expecting a child. Alexander, 35, is in his second year on tour and ranked 240th in the world.

“The game, like I said, is in a great spot,” Horschel said. “I think Tyson’s game is in a very similar spot that my game was in a couple weeks ago. He’s really close to playing some really good consistent golf, and hopefully this is his breakthrough this week for him.”

–Field Level Media

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