Rose in brief cameo, china rookies on top

Justin Rose swinging his club at the par-three third from the water's edge.
Justin Rose swinging his club at the par-three third from the water's edge.ST PHOTO: TWITTER/PGATOUR PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A happy Dou Zecheng of China (left, with partner Zhang Xinjun) after making his putt on the 18th green to tie for the lead during the Zurich Classic's first round in Avondale, Louisiana.
A happy Dou Zecheng of China (left, with partner Zhang Xinjun) after making his putt on the 18th green to tie for the lead during the Zurich Classic's first round in Avondale, Louisiana.ST PHOTO: TWITTER/PGATOUR PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Dou and Zhang joint leaders on 12-under as Briton strips off to save shot at water's edge

LOUISIANA (New Orleans) • On a day when Justin Rose stripped down to his underwear to hit out of a water hazard at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng laid bare their golf skills.

The Chinese duo belied their low world rankings and picked off birdies at their final three holes to tie for the lead after the first round on Thursday.

The first two players from China to earn PGA Tour membership have been struggling on their rookie season on the top-tier Tour in the United States. But they looked at home alongside the game's elite to card 12-under 60 in the four-ball format.

The bespectacled Dou ran in a 30-foot putt for birdie at the last as the pair joined American duo Lucas Glover and Chez Reavie in the lead, while six other teams shot 62.

"Dou's putting performance was perfect," Zhang was quoted as saying on sina.com after they matched the tournament record 18-hole score. "I also contributed on a few key holes. It was the perfect round today."

The only official event on the PGA Tour with a team format, the Zurich Classic uses four-ball (best ball) in the first and third rounds, and (alternate shot) foursomes in the second and final rounds.

Dou, 21, is ranked 476th in the world. He became the first player from China to win on the PGA Tour's secondary Web.com Tour when he captured the Digital Ally Open last year.

OLD HAND

My partner showed me what you've got to do. Remember Doral? He's not scared of taking his pants off, so he said 'get in there'.

JUSTIN ROSE, Britain's Olympic champion, on taking advice from Henrik Stenson, who played a shot from a water hazard in just his undies nine years ago.

OBVIOUS CHOICE

I chose life over a good lie in that situation.

TALOR GOOCH, American golfer, on not taking any chances with an alligator when his ball landed in a bunker.

World No. 301 Zhang, 30, is a two-time PGA Tour China winner, and is that Tour's all-time leading money winner. But he is 128th in the FedExCup standings .

"We were exceptionally good today," added Dou, 215th in the FedExCup standings.

"We had to putt from long distances but managed to make birdie at different holes.

"We'll need to be patient tomorrow and wait for our scoring opportunities."

While New Orleans is famous for its gumbo and fried chicken, Dou and Zhang added that they felt at home after finding a Chinese market and buying supplies, reported pgatour.com.

At the par-three third hole, Rose looked like he could have done with a pair of trousers after his tee shot finished partly submerged at TPC Louisiana. The Olympic champion ignored the local alligator population and bared some skin in an attempt to blast it onto the green.

With partner Henrik Stenson jokingly sticking a hand towards the lens of the nearby TV camera to block the view, the Englishman shed his trousers, shoes and socks before taking his stance with his right foot in the water, and his left on dry land. His recovery shot succeeded in finding the green.

Rose perhaps was inspired by Stenson, who nine years ago showed even more skin in a similar attempt to play from a water hazard at a World Golf Championships event at Doral, Florida. Unlike Rose, Stenson even removed his shirt, leaving himself in just his white underpants before taking his shot.

"My partner showed me what you've got to do," Rose joked. "Remember Doral? He's not scared of taking his pants off, so he said 'get in there'."

Rose and Stenson combined to shoot 65. Rose was more adventurous than American Talor Gooch, who found three alligators nearby after his ball found a bunker at the 18th hole.

Two of the reptiles responded to a nudge from a rake and returned to the adjacent pond, but the third would not budge, which led to a ruling. Gooch was allowed a free drop in the bunker, but his ball plugged. He considered that a reasonable outcome under the circumstances.

"I chose life over a good lie in that situation," he told Golf Channel after carding a 66 with compatriot Andrew Landry.

Patrick Reed made a good return to competition in his first start since winning the Masters three weeks ago, as he and partner Patrick Cantlay also carded 65.

REUTERS

ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Rose in brief cameo, china rookies on top'. Print Edition | Subscribe