Zurich Classic 2016
Round 3 - Brian Stuard seals maiden win in a playoff
May 3, 2016
Brian Stuard made steady golf pay off on a waterlogged course in the haunting cypress swamps outside New Orleans.
The 33-year-old Stuard birdied the final hole of a largely unspectacular final round to sneak into a three-way playoff on Monday, then beat Jamie Lovemark on the second extra hole to capture his maiden PGA Tour triumph at the Zurich Classic.
Stuard never bogeyed a hole throughout the tournament on the long (7,425-yard), par-72 TPC Louisiana course, which was drenched with more than 4 1/2 inches of rain during the tournament. Weather delays on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday not only forced a Monday finish but also led officials to shorten the tournament to 54 holes.
''I wasn't playing great. I was just kind of, I don't know ... hanging around,'' Stuard said after his final-round 69, which wasn't even among the top 20 scores on the day. ''I kind of hung in there all week. I just didn't get too ahead of myself and just stayed real patient.''
Lovemark, Stuard and Byeong-Hun An entered the playoff at 15 under par.
An unraveled on the first playoff hole and Lovemark on the second while Stuard remained composed, virtually clinching the win with a 160-yard approach to within 2 1/2 of the pin for an easy birdie putt.
Stuard's best previous PGA Tour finishes were a pair of second places in Mexico, one in 2010 and the other in 2014. He arrived in New Orleans with conditional status on the PGA Tour, meaning he could only play in tournaments that had room for him when enough higher-ranked players skipped the event. His victory not only earned him $1.26 million, it also gives him a two-year exemption allowing him to play in majors and any other Tour event he wants.
''I've always been, I guess, a journeyman kind of player, just always grinded it out,'' said Stuard, who became the seventh first-time winner in New Orleans in the past 11 years. ''You just had to have the confidence to say, 'One day, it's going to be your time.'''
Lovemark came in with only five career top-10 finishes, but four of those had come this season.
''I feel good,'' Lovemark said after his best finish since his only other second place in 2009. ''Not too disappointed. Just a little bummed, but moving on to next week.''
Jason Day, the world's top-ranked player, wound up tied for fifth with Chris Kirk at 13 under.
''I just wish it was 72 holes,'' Day said. ''At least I gave myself an opportunity to be around the leaders.''
The saturated course rewarded players most adept at hitting long in the air off the tee and aiming right for the pin on approach shots. On many shots, balls hardly moved upon landing.
Players sometimes struggled to gauge abnormally slow greens. It happened to Lovemark at the most pivotal or moments; he left a 9 1/2-foot birdie putt for the win just inches short on the 18th green.
The narrow miss seemed to unsettle Lovemark, whose shots became erratic. He managed to par the 18th on the first playoff hole, but his approach on the second playoff - also on 18 - found a muddy area near the grandstand, well left of the green.
An did not look like a contender entering Monday, but he shot up the leaderboard with birdies on 11, 13, 14 and 15. His 5-foot birdie putt on 18 landed him in the playoff - marking only his second top 10 and his first top three. But he botched consecutive approach shots on the first playoff hole, leaving him with a bogey that ended his tournament.
Bobby Wyatt, a 23-year-old making his ninth PGA Tour start on a sponsor invitation, briefly surged into the lead with an eagle and six birdies on his first 13 holes of his final round. But three-putts for bogeys on the 14th and 15th cost him.
''I certainly haven't been in this position a lot, so I think probably some of it is nerves,'' Wyatt said.
A birdie on 16, highlighted by a 138-yard approach shot to within four feet of the hole, followed by a 7-foot putt on 18 for his eighth birdie of the round, left him alone in fourth at 14 under.
He still felt like a winner in the big scheme of things. His first top-10 finish earned him $336,000 and qualified him for a 10th Tour start at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte later this week.
''I found out I can play with these guys,'' he said.
Notes: A PGA Tour event hadn't been shortened to 54 holes since the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club. ... The last Monday finish was at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in early February.
Round 3 - Rain hit event heads for Monday finish
May 2, 2016
Jhonattan Vegas birdied two of five holes he was able to play in the rain-delayed third round of the Zurich Classic on Sunday, giving him a share of the lead with Brian Stuard.
Tournament officials cut the event to 54 holes in an attempt to finish play Monday.
Vegas made birdie putts from beyond 7 feet on the first two holes to reach 13 under, then parred three straight before steady rain, accompanied by intermittent thunder, forced organizers to clear the water-logged TPC Louisiana after little more than two hours of play.
Stuard, who has not made a bogey in the tournament, had one birdie Sunday. Like Vegas, he'll resume play on the sixth hole.
Top-ranked Jason Day was in a five-way tie for fifth at 10 under through 44 holes.
Rain, which also delayed play Thursday and Saturday, is again forecast Monday.
The Zurich Classic is the first PGA Tour event to be shortened to 54 holes since the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. The last Monday finish was the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in early February.
Play was suspended a just after 10 a.m. time and tournament officials waited hopefully through a delay of more than six hours before finally calling off play for the day and shortening the tournament.
''I'm just trying to stay awake right now. It's been a really long day,'' Vegas, a Venezuelan with one career PGA Tour triumph, said during the delay. ''Just got to find a way to relax and keep the mind calm.''
He said he was focused on ''doing things simple'' in conditions that were sloppy but hardly unfamiliar to him.
''I grew up in a place that rained a lot,'' Vegas said. ''The big thing here (is) just being able to hit the ball clean, especially when it's muddy and so wet.
''It should be a fun finish,'' he added.
The 33-year-old Stuard is trying to win a PGA Tour event for the first time, and the delays have given him plenty of time to sit around and think about the high stakes he now faces in his final round, although he's trying not to do that.
''Just try not to get ahead of yourself,'' Stuard said. ''We just got to keep that right mind frame and just worry about the next shot.''
Bobby Wyatt, who has an eagle and four birdies in his third round, climbed from 22nd after two rounds to third at 12 under with nine holes to play. Jamie Lovemark was fourth at 11 under with 13 holes left.
Day birdied his last two holes before play was stopped. He was tied with Charley Hoffman, Scott Stallings, Chris Kirk and Charles Howell III. Hoffman and Stallings each have just four holes left, while Kirk has nine and Howell 12.
''I'm only three shots back, but anything can happen on the back side,'' Day said. ''We always say golf is a marathon, not a sprint, (but) this is kind of a sprint now.''
Round 3 - Brian Stuard leads in wet New Orleans
May 1, 2016
Brian Stuard completed his second straight bogey-free round to take a one-shot lead in the waterlogged Zurich Classic.
Stuard played just six holes Saturday, completing his second round with a 4-under 68 to reach 12 under at TPC Louisiana. Jamie Landmark and Jhonattan Vegas were tied for second. They finished the second round Friday.
The 33-year-old Stuard, winless on the PGA Tour, continued his steady play with two birdies Some players were able to begin the third round on Saturday before thunderstorms swept through the area, but the leaders haven't teed off.
Top-ranked Day was five strokes behind Stuard after shooting a 68 in the second round.
Rain delays have interrupted two out of three days of the tournament. More rain is forecast for Sunday.
PGA Tour tournament director Steve Carman said there is a small possibility that all four rounds of the tournament could be completed Sunday, but with more rain expected, a Monday finish is more likely.
''If we get any stoppage, then we'll be playing golf on Monday, provided the forecast and the golf course can support that,'' Carman said. ''So, it's just really a wait and see position that we're in.''
It's just the second time in Stuard's career that he's had the lead after 36 holes. He said the threat of impending rain won't affect how he plays when, or if, he's able to get on the course Sunday.
''I think you've just got to go out and play it one shot at a time and whatever happens, happens,'' Stuard said.
Lovemark and Vegas didn't play at all Saturday, getting some rest after a long Friday. Lovemark played 27 holes on Friday to jump into contention with a second-round 66. Vegas completed 30 1/2 holes and finished the second round with a 69.
Stuard, Lovemark and Vegas have a sizable jump on the rest of the field. Six players, including Charles Howell III, were four strokes back at 8 under.
Day was among a dozen players five shots behind Stuard. The Australian said the stop-and-start nature of the tournament can makes things difficult, but he's pleased with the way he's played through two rounds.
''You've got to try and stay in the right frame of mind mentally,'' Day said. ''Try and keep yourself loose. Because there is a lot of sitting around, a lot of eating, and all that other stuff. But you've got to try and remind yourself that you need to stay sharp.''
Round 2- Jamie Lovemark and Jhonattan Vegas share lead
April 30, 2016
Jamie Lovemark and Jhonattan Vegas shared the Zurich Classic lead at 11 under Friday when second-round play was suspended because of darkness.
Lovemark had a 27-hole day at hot and humid TPC Louisiana, completing a 5-under 67 in the first round and adding a 66 in the second in the event that fell behind schedule Thursday with a long rain delay.
''Just happy to be alive,'' said Lovemark, winless on the PGA Tour. ''It was hot, humid. It's a tough walk, just soft, so ate a ton, walked slow. Not too bad. ...
''I'm going to go sleep, man, find some AC, chill a little bit. I'm staying in town, so get some good food and just kind of relax, watch some basketball.''
Vegas, from Venezuela, shot 64-69.
''Long day,'' Vegas said. ''I played 30 1/2 holes today. I knew it was going to be an extremely long day, so I just kind of kept the mentality and hit one shot at a time and just played as hard as I can. The course was a little easier this morning with the greens being soft, but the wind picked up in the afternoon, and this course was really hard.''
None of the players in the afternoon wave finished the round, with top-ranked Jason Day at 5 under and facing a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th when play resumes. The Australian is the first No. 1 player to play in the event since David Duval in 1999.
Brian Stuard, the overnight leader after a 64 on Thursday, was a stroke behind the leaders at 10 under with six holes left.
Harold Varner III was 8 under after a 67. He and Tiger Woods are the only players of black heritage with PGA Tour status this season.
''I just think I'm obviously putting better,'' Varner said. ''You get out of a few jams when you chip it bad and you hole a few putts you're supposed to hole, it just makes it a lot easier.''
Patton Kizzire, Thomas Aiken, Daniel Bergerand Patrick Rodgers were 7 under. Kizzire (67-70) and Aiken (68-69) finished, while Bergerhad five holes left, and Rodgers 11 to play.
Vegas won the 2011 Bob Hope Classic for his lone tour title. He made a double bogey on the par-5 11th - his second hole of the second round - after losing a ball on his second shot.
''I just hit a bad shot,'' Vegas said. ''I shouldn't have really gone that close to that tree, but it's part of the game. I was proud to kind of get my head on the next shot and the next hole and bounce back with birdies after that.''
Round 1 - Brian Stuard leads with opening 64
April 29, 2016
Brian Stuard shot an 8-under 64 on Thursday to top the leaderboard in the suspended first round of the Zurich Classic.
The 33-year-old Stuard had only 21 putts in his bogey-free round at TPC Louisiana, finishing his final hole after a rain delay of nearly five hours.
''It was just one of those days where it seemed like I was really reading the putts well, and luckily they were going in,'' Stuard said. ''I picked this putter up last week in San Antonio and had a good feel for it. I putted well last week and it continued over to today.''
None of the afternoon starters were able to finish before darkness suspended play.
Top-ranked Jason Day bogeyed his final two holes after the delay for 69.
''It's just the waiting part,'' Day said. ''Obviously, the weather hovering above us just wouldn't go away. It had just been a very long wait, and you just want to get in and finish. I had two holes left. Yeah, I mean, clearly a little frustrated, but looking forward to tomorrow.''
The Australian is the first No. 1 player to play in the event since David Duval in 1999.
''I've just got to manage myself out there,'' Day said. ''Obviously, this is going to be bit of a tough week with these double start rounds. Some guys are going out to play 27 holes tomorrow, or some guys have got to play 36. With that said, I might be able to sneak in nine holes and play 27 on Saturday, but I've just got to stay positive, keep moving forward, and see how it goes from there.''
Retief Goosen was second after a 65. The 47-year-old South African is a two-time U.S. Open champion.
''I hit a couple of bad shots coming in, unfortunately, but I managed to save pars,'' Goosen said. ''It'll be a long wait now until my next round.''
J.J. Henry, Geoff Ogilvy, Derek Ernst, Charles Howell III and Patrick Rodgers shot 67, and Rickie Fowler topped the group at 68.
''A lot of just sitting around, hanging out,'' Fowler said. ''Boo (Weekley) was in there sleeping at one point. There was people spread out all over, from player family dining to the locker room. There might have been some pictures posted on Snapchat. But no, it's always fun to hang with the fellow players and families and just kind of relax.''
Stuard is winless on the PGA Tour. He's making only his seventh start of the season.
''I haven't been able to get in too many tournaments,'' Stuard said. ''I played last week and then this week, obviously, so playing two in a row is kind of nice to get a little momentum going. ... It's tough. I guess it's just part of the deal. You've got to deal with it. But it's definitely tough, not sure what your schedule is going to be even next week.''