AVONDALE, La. (AP) — Bubba Watson entered the Zurich Classic as a favor to his mother.
“My mom really wanted me to come,” said Watson, tied for first-round lead with Matt Jones after opening with a 6-under 66 on Thursday. “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.”
Watson, the winner at Torrey Pines in late January, made a 32-foot eagle putt on the par-5 11th and had six birdies and two bogeys at TPC Louisiana – far from his favorite course.
“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 chipped in from 57 feet for a birdie on his final hole.
“I pitched it perfectly,” Jones said. “It grabbed a little and just trickled in nicely.”
Jones had eight birdies and two bogeys. Playing the back nine first, the Australian 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.
Jones and put in a lot of work this week with swing coach Gary Barter.
“My hands are pretty sore, actually, after all the work we’ve done,” Jones said. “So it’s coming slowly. Today we saw some positives out of what we’ve been doing.”
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.
“I think I just stayed patient,” said Durant, sixth last week at Hilton Head. “Some of the pins were in some difficult spots so you had to kind of shoot away from them. I played around here enough to know what it’s going to do with different winds.”
Gainey was third last week.
“I think the momentum from last week is definitely with me,” he said.
Luke Donald, a playoff loser last week at Hilton Head in a failed 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.