Hovland-Ventura share lead with Finau-Champ at Zurich Classic

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Norway's Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura shook off an early miscue in Friday's second-round foursomes to maintain a share of the lead alongside Cameron Champ and Tony Finau at the US PGA Tour Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Hovland and Ventura, who held a one-shot overnight leat at TPC Louisiana near New Orleans, had a double-bogey at the 16th, their seventh hole of the day, but nabbed five birdies from there in a three-under 69 that pulled them level with Finau and Champ on 13-under 131.

America's Champ and Finau matched the low round of the day in the tricky alternate-shot format, combining for five birdies and one bogey in a four-under par 68 as they joined the Norwegians with a two-shot lead.

"We knew today with the wind and just the format in general it was going to be a grind, and that's what we did, especially coming down the last nine holes," Camp said. "We just kind of grinded it out, but I finished with a good birdie on 18."

"We both hit a few squirrelly shots but we were able to make some good pars that just kept the round going. In this format I think that's huge."

They had the lead alone until Hovland and Ventura birdied their final hole, the par-three ninth, where Hovland's tee shot left Ventura a 10-foot birdie chance.

"I thought we did a really good job," Hovland said of the round in "whipping" wind.

"Kris is driving it on a string and really far, so that makes it easier for me with hitting some iron shots in there.

"We managed to birdie a couple of really tough holes out there."

Familiar Ryder Cup duo Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson had set an early target, firing a 68 in the morning wave that eventually saw them sharing second on 133 with Americans Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler.

Two-time Masters champion Watson and Scheffler carded a 69.

- Trust yourself, your partner -

Sweden's Stenson has struggled on tour of late, but Rose said Friday he was "a rock".

"I don't think he made one mistake that led to us dropping a shot really," Rose said. "He pulled his weight today."

The duo bounced back from each of their three bogeys with a birdie, making seven birdies overall.

"The biggest thing is you have to trust yourself but then you've got to trust your partner, but more so you have to trust yourself," England's Rose said of the intricacies of the alternate-shot format.

Unlike in four-ball, when the team can count the better player's score, any error can leave your partner to dig out of a tough position.

"You've got to not worry about what your partner is going to be facing and I think it’s all about committing to your shots," Rose said.

Two players solved the problem of how to set up their partners in style by simply producing holes in one.

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell aced the 216-yard par-three 17th with a four-iron as he and England's Matt Wallace carded a two-under par 70 that left them five off the lead.

American Nick Watney aced the 224-yard 14th as he and partner Charley Hoffman posted a two-over 74 that left them seven adrift with Saturday's four-ball third round coming up