AVONDALE, La. – Several of the game’s biggest stars traveled to New Orleans for this week’s Zurich Classic, but the anonymous duo of Michael Kim and Andrew Putnam are on top for now.
Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and others were heading home after a disappointing finish in Round 2 of alternate shot, in which Kim and Putnam thrived in the morning wave.
They teed off No. 10 in the first pairing of the day at 8:20 a.m. local time and shot 3-under 69, backing up a 10-under 62 in Thursday’s best ball to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend.
“We ham and egged it well,” said Putnam, who returned to the PGA Tour this year for the first time since 2015. “When one person hit a bad shot, the next person hit a good recovery. Wasn’t our prettiest golf, but that’s what we did.”
Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown finished runner-up last year when the Zurich Classic switched to a team format, and they’re just one shot back and alone in second at 12 under.
The teams of Chad Campbell/Matt Jones and Nate Lashley/Rob Oppenheim are T-3 at 11 under.
“We would love to get a trophy together,” Kisner said. “We grew up together and are long-time friends, so it would be fun to win together. We’ve won a bunch of tournaments together, so we’re looking forward to the weekend.”
Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar make up the most intriguing team in contention. They fired an impressive 5-under 67 to get to 9 under for the week and are four back entering the weekend.
It is also worth nothing that Watson and Kuchar decided to celebrate birdies by slapping each other in the face this week, which doesn’t exactly fit the PGA Tour brand but works when you consider the anything goes nature of nearby Bourbon Street.
“Hopefully you’re playing with somebody you want to play with,” Watson said. “I think because of the friendship, it loosens you up. There is no world ranking points. Obviously there is money, FedEx Cup points, Ryder Cup points, all those things, (but) at the same time you’re out here freewheeling it playing with your buddy.”
The team format does have a downside for those on the wrong side of the cutline. At 8 under through 16 alongside partner Ryan Palmer, Spieth hit shots in the water at 17 and 18 and the duo finished with consecutive double bogeys to miss the cut by a single stroke at 4 under.
“I cost our team an opportunity, which, you know, really sucks given how hard we fought today,” Spieth said. “It’s not a good feeling. It’s much worse than if it’s just you.”
Thomas and partner Bud Cauley needed a birdie at the par-5 18th to make the cut, but Thomas’ approach to the green missed long and left. Cauley got relief from a greenside tent and hit a good chip from a difficult spot, but Thomas narrowly missed a 33-foot birdie putt.
Thomas and Spieth are the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked players in the world, but they weren’t able to get it going at TPC Louisiana.
Putnam is ranked No. 266 in the world and Kim is No. 390, and the rest of the field will be chasing them instead entering Saturday’s Round 3 best ball.