New teammate, same result as Billy Horschel jumps into contention at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

AVONDALE, La. – Sam Burns grew up in nearby Shreveport and played college golf at LSU, but at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans it’s (...)

New teammate, same result as Billy Horschel jumps into contention at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

AVONDALE, La. – Sam Burns grew up in nearby Shreveport and played college golf at LSU, but at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans it’s up for debate who has a bigger following – Burns, who said he’s still scrounging to meet ticket demand, or his partner in the two-man team format, Billy Horschel.

“We heard tons of ‘Geaux Tigers.’ That was cool for me,” Burns said. “But they like him around here, too.”

Horschel’s popularity in The Big Easy has been of the hard-earned variety. For starters, the Pete Dye design built along the Mississippi Delta was the site of Horschel’s first PGA Tour victory in 2013, when the event was contested as a 72-hole stroke play tournament and he shot 64 on Sunday. Despite playing for the Florida Gators and calling Florida home, Horschel’s fondness for this suburb of New Orleans grew again when he teamed with Scott Piercy to win as a team in 2018. And he and Burns, who are first-time partners in the event, are off to a flying start this week, making birdies at the first four holes and five of the first six en route to shooting a best-ball score of 9-under 63, one stroke off the pace set by Norwegian natives and former Oklahoma State teammates Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura.

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Credit for the Burns and Horschel pairing was given to Travis Perkins, Burns’s caddie who happens to be a good friend with Horschel. So far, opposites attract. Horschel’s confidence borders on cockiness and he wears his emotions on his sleeve while Burns is quiet and more reserved.

“I think it’s great to have a little yin and yang,” Horschel said.

In Thursday’s best-ball scoring format, Burns let his clubs do the talking for their team. When asked who had contributed the birdies, Horschel, who won the WGC Dell Matchplay in March, pointed to his partner, who is still seeking his first PGA Tour title, and said, “It was all him. He made eight and I made one.”

That’s what teammates are for.

“What he’s shown over the last six months, it’s just a matter of time before he breaks into the winner’s circle and he’s going to be one of those guys who’s mentioned with the Collin Morikawas and Matthew Wolffs as one of the best players in their early 20s,” Horschel said. “With Sam being 24, I’ve got a young partner for a long time now, as long as he doesn’t kick me to the curb.”

Sam Burns

Sam Burns plays from the 9th green during the first round of the 2021 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. (Photo: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)

Though Horschel had just the lone birdie at No. 12, his contribution on Thursday didn’t go unnoticed by his young teammate, who credited him for some helpful reads on the greens. Five of the eight birdies collected by Burns were from more than 10 feet away, including a 31-foot putt that dropped at No. 6.

“There were several times today where he freed me up,” Burns said.

Horschel smiled, and then relayed the one time that he regretted giving advice at No. 8.

“I caddied really bad on that one,” Horschel said. “He had the line and I said, ‘Well, just don’t hit it too hard.’ I think that put an extra thought in his head.”

Burns wasn’t the only player with a hot putter. Ventura and Hovland were just 1-under through six holes before Ventura, who rolled in seven birdies for his team, caught fire with the flat stick and they carded birdies on nine of their last 12 holes.

“It was cool to watch,” said Hovland, who made three birdies including one at the last to give them a one-stroke edge over five teams, including Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele, heading into Friday’s second round which will be played under the foursomes format (alternate shot).

“Tomorrow, in foursomes, it’s buckle your seat belt, make no apologies and hang on for dear life kind of a day,” said Steele.

Source : Golf Week More