Viktor Hovland and Kristoffer Ventura of Norway started early in the day, went to the top of the leaderboard and stayed there, although Scott Stallings and Brice Garnett caught them late in the round.
Hovland and Ventura, teammates on Oklahoma State’s 2018 NCAA Championship team, posted a best-ball score of 10-under-par 62, which Stallings and Garnett equaled when they were among the final twosomes on the course in the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La.
“I think the mindset overall is just that we know each other pretty well and we’re comfortable around each other, so it was going to be a fun day no matter what,” said Hovland, who has won twice on the PGA Tour.
“Obviously, we played well today, but it’s always fun to play together and we don’t get the chance to do that very often, in a tournament especially. It definitely brings back some memories of national teams in Norway and college golf, for sure.”
Hovland and Ventura made birdies on six of the last eight holes and a total of 10. When Hovland made a bogey at No. 4, Ventura made par, and exactly the opposite happened on the next hole.
Garnett made four birdies on the first five holes while finishing on the front nine, and Stallings added two on the seventh and eighth holes, the second with an 18-foot putt.
“We had a tale of two nines,” said Stallings, who made half of his team’s 10 birdies. “It was nice we didn’t birdie the same hole ever, and that’s what you have to do. We did a great job of that today.”
Billy Horschel, who teamed with Scott Piercy to win this title in 2018, and Sam Burns posted a 63 to tie for third with Cameron Champ of Sacramento and Tony Finau, Brendan Steele of Idyllwild and UC Riverside and Keegan Bradley, Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea and Kyle Stanley, Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark and Mark Hubbard, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, and Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith of Australia.
Smith, who claimed the title alongside Jonas Blixt of Sweden in 2017, made four birdies on the back nine, including two on the last three holes.
“I was really excited about having Sam this week because he is a really good putter and showed it today,” said Horschel, who won the Zurich Classic on his own in 2013, before it became a team event. “That helped because I didn’t play bad, but I wasn’t on top of my game.
“It was nice to see Sam have a really good round because he’s been playing well, and so I just made sure I didn’t to anything stupid.”
Burns collected eight birdies, three from outside 20 feet, while Horschel had only one, at the 12th hole.
Charley Hoffman of Poway and Nick Watney of Davis made two eagles to shoot 64 and tie for 10th with fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of Torrey Pines and San Diego State and 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler, Tyler Duncan and Adam Schenk, and Roger Sloan of Canada and Aaron Baddeley of Australia, and Erik van Rooyen of South Africa and Wyndham Clark.
Watney sank a 32-foot eagle putt on the second hole and Hoffman made a five-footer for their second eagle at No. 7.
Defending champions Ryan Palmer and third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain totaled 65 and are in a tie for 16th that includes Danny Willett and eighth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England, while Matthew Wolff of Agoura Hills and fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal are tied for 70th at 70.
The teams will play alternate-shot in round two.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html