Spieth-Palmer, Stanley-Ruffels share Zurich lead

Jordan Spieth, who was teamed with Ryan Palmer, sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to cap a bogey-free 6-under-par 66, tying Kyle Stanley and 18-year-old Ryan Ruffels of Australia for the lead after the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La.

The opening round was played under the foursomes (alternate-shot) format, with the players turning to four-ball (best ball) in round two. This is the first stroke=play team event on the PGA Tour since 1981.

“It was a nice way to finish, putting us in the pole position,” said Spieth, who also holed out from 36 holes for a birdie on the 14th hole. “That was like stealing one (on No. 14) because we could have (made a bogey), so it was nice to see it go in.

“I worked a lot on my chipping and putting to know how to work the ball on this Bermuda grass, plus read the slope on the greens. Ryan made most of the putts; he did a great job.”

Said Palmer: “Jordan has such a great short game, one of the best in the world. It was fun to watch. He knew exactly where to leave me on the fairway and always left me with a good number coming in. We made our share of putts and he poured that last one in.

“We’re still going to play our game (in round two), although we might be a little more aggressive.”

Stanley, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix and Ruffels birdied their first four holes after starting on No. 10 and made four more birdies on the back nine.

They were a 7-under before making their second bogey of the day on their last hole.

“We got off to a great start with Ryan making a birdie on the 10th hole and we had fun,” Stanley said. “We’re pretty pleased with the start.”

Added Ruffels: “We played together in the Australian Masters played in third round and got along well. It was nice for him to take me under his wing a little bit.”

Nick Watney of Davis and Fresno State holed out from 59 holes for an eagle on the 18th hole and finished at 67 with teammate Charley Hoffman of Poway and UNLV to wind up in a tie for third.

Watney and Hoffman were even with Ben Crane and Ben Martin, who birdied three of their last five holes, K.J. Choi and Charlie Wi of South Korea, who also had three late birdies, and Jonas Blixt of Sweden and Cameron Smith of Australia, who birdied their last hole when Martin buried a 16-foot putt.

Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, who also play on the Champions Tour, posted a 68 to tie for seventh with Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, and Brian Stuard and Chris Stroud.

The two teams considered the favorites struggled a bit, with Jason Day of Australia and Rickie Fowler tying for 33rd at 71, while Justin Rose of England and Henrik Stenson of Sweden were tied for 44th at 72.


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