Saturday’s golf: Former BYU teammates lead Classic of New Orleans

April 28, 2024

Avondale, La. — Former BYU teammates Patrick Fishburn and Zach Blair shot a 12-under 60 in better-ball play Saturday to take the third-round lead in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the PGA Tour’s only team event.

At 23-under 193, Fishburn and Blair had a one-stroke lead over Luke List and Henrik Norlander, with the Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry – tied for the lead after each of the first two rounds – two strokes back.

Fishburn and Blair, both winless on the PGA Tour, have been playing golf together since their junior high school days in Ogden, Utah.

“It’s kind of why you’re out here playing is to have opportunities like this,” Blair said. “I’ve been out here a handful of years now, so I know that they don’t come that often, and so we’ll do our best to go take advantage of it.”

Fishburn had three birdies and an eagle on the first five holes at wind-swept TPC Louisiana, where the wind gusted to 25 mph. Windy conditions are also expected for Sunday for the alternate-shot finale.

List and Norlander had a 62. List eagled the second and 11th holes.

“We just got in a really good rhythm early,” Norlander said. “I felt like we were both hitting fairways. Not necessarily hitting it really close, but it felt like early we had two chances on every hole.”

McIlroy and Lowry shook off a slow start to birdie seven of their last 12 holes. They shot 64 to join Ryan Brehm and Mark Hubbard, who also had a 64, at 21 under. Canadians Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin topped the group at 20 under.

“Look, it was a tough day,” McIlroy said. “Birdies were a little harder to come by today than they were on Thursday in the better-ball format. I think today was about staying patient knowing that the course was going to present some opportunities, especially on that back nine.”

Fishburn and Blair were a stroke off the tournament record.

“Just kind of rode Fish all day,” Blair said. “He played good. I mean, it was pretty textbook out there for him.”

They made the turn in 7-under 29 and birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine before finishing with three pars.

“It’s pretty easy to hit shots when Zac is always in the fairway, always on the green,” Fishburn said. “We ham-and-egged it really good today.”

Grace Kim stumbled to a 5-over 76 on Saturday in the LA Championship — and still held onto a share of the lead.

It was that kind of a day at Wilshire Country Club, the tree-lined layout made difficult by bumpy poa annua greens and tricky wind conditions.

“It’s tough for everyone today,” Kim said. “It was just one of those days. It’s just golf.”

Four strokes ahead entering the day after rounds of 64 and 66, Kim was tied with fellow Australian Hannah Green, the defending champion who saved par with a 12-footer on the par-3 18th for a 70. They were at 7-under 206.

“The putt that I made on 18 almost felt like I birdie,” Green said.

Maja Stark, playing alongside Kim in the final group, bogeyed the 18th for a 73.

“You know that you can’t take every missed putt too personally because that’s going to happen for everyone,” Stark said.

The Swede was a stroke back with Jin Hee Im, the South Korean player who had a back-nine 30 in a 63 for the best round of the day, and Germany’s Esther Henseleit (71). Nasa Hataoka of Japan was 5 under after a 64.

Kim bogeyed the par-5 second hole and had a double bogey on the par-3 fourth. She also dropped shots on the par-4 10th and 16th holes.

“I tried to stay in the present of just the next shot, giving myself good chances,” said the 23-year-old Kim, The LOTTE Championship last year in Hawaii for her first LPGA Tour title. “I know I had a few three-putts in there, but just keeping my head in the game and not losing that shot focus.”

The 27-year-old Green rebounded from a 2-foot par miss on the par-4 17th with the par save on 18. After bogeying three of the last six holes on the front nine, she played a four-hole stretch on the back nine in 4 under. She eagled the par-5 13th and birdied 14 and 16, then missed the short putt on 17.

“I didn’t really have many full swings. Had a lot of half-shots in,” said Green, the winner in Singapore early last month for her fourth LPGA Tour title. “With the greens firming up and getting bouncy it kind of made it hard to completely trust that shot.”

Stark finished second last week outside Houston in The Chevron Championship, two strokes behind top-ranked Nelly Korda in the first major of the year. Korda withdrew Monday, a day after her record-tying fifth straight victory.