Unlikely Zurich Classic pairing paying off for Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Unlikely Zurich Classic pairing paying off for Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer

PGA Tour

Unlikely Zurich Classic pairing paying off for Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer

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AVONDALE, La. – Among the carefully-chosen teams of future Presidents Cup roster members, best friends, countrymen and, in the case of Brooks and Chase Koepka, brothers, two guys who just needed someone to play with co-lead entering Sunday’s final round of the Zurich Classic.

Jon Rahm is a common sight on top of the leaderboard these days, but his partner, 42-year-old Ryan Palmer, hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2010.

And the thrown-together pairing of guys who couldn’t team up with past partners has been giving it to the rest of the field this week at TPC Louisiana.

“Our games are so good together because we both drive the ball so well,” Rahm said. “And when our iron play is on, knowing how good he can putt and when I get the putter rolling, we’re going to make a lot of birdies in both formats. It’s exciting to be in this position.”

Rahm’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18 gave them a share of the lead alongside Scott Stallings/Trey Mullinax ahead of Sunday’s final round, this tournament finally back on schedule following a 7-hour, 33-minute rain delay Thursday.

The co-leading foursome tees off at 1:42 p.m. ET Sunday, at which point anything can happen due to the whacky nature of alternate-shot format. Palmer and Rahm looked especially comfortable with it in Round 2 and set a new tournament alternate-shot record with their bogey-free 65.

Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood managed a 4-under 68 and followed that up with an 8-under 64 in Round 3 best-ball. That has the European duo T-6 and well within striking distance at 19 under. And they know Sunday’s final-round format brings a different kind of pressure.

“You can’t get away with ropey shots like on (best-ball),” Fleetwood said. “(In best-ball) one guy can hit it in the trees, the other guy has his own ball and he can do his job. It’s very, very different. The rhythm is different. So if you’re not playing that great, it’s tougher to get back into a rhythm. … It’s a more difficult format, there’s less leeway. But I think that suits us.”

That wasn’t the case for some of the other star-studded pairings this week in New Orleans. Jason Day and Adam Scott shot even-par 72 in Round 2 and bogeyed two of their last three holes to miss the cut. Annual pairing Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay also missed the cut here for the first time in three years.

As for the new Rahm-Palmer duo? That looks like a keeper, one that could deliver Rahm’s seventh career international victory at age 24 and Palmer’s first in nearly a decade.

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