• GOLF

    Blixt, Smith pull away at Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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    LOS ANGELES: Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith produced a bogey-free four-under par 68 on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), stretching their lead to four strokes entering the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

    Sweden’s Blixt and Australia’s Smith have played 54 holes without a bogey at TPC Louisiana, where the format of two-man teams is a first on the US PGA Tour in 36 years.

    “It doesn’t matter how many bogeys you make if you’re in the lead,” said Blixt, a two-time winner on the US tour. “I’m very happy about the way we played.”

    “Kudos to you,” Blixt said in turning to his partner, who is seeking a first PGA Tour title. “You played some really good golf coming in — there were some really hard shots into the wind there.”

    Saturday’s alternate shot format didn’t produce the sizzling scores seen in better ball play on Friday — when Blixt and Smith combined for a 62 to seize a one-stroke lead.

    Through 54 holes, they are four in front of two all-US duos: Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, who posted a 67; and Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney, who carded a 69.

    Former world number one Jordan Spieth and fellow Texan Ryan Palmer were a further stroke back after a 70 for 202.

    Blixt and Smith started strong with birdies at the second and third. They picked up two more strokes with birdies at 15 and 18 — where Blixt’s 123-yard third shot left Smith a tap-in.

    Kisner and Brown opened with nine pars before coming alive on the back nine with six birdies and a bogey.

    Hoffman and Watney made the last of their four birdies at 18, where Hoffman sank a five-foot putt as they bounced back from their lone bogey at 15 to grab a share of second.

    “We hit some good shots to give ourselves chances,” Hoffman said. “In this format, even a good par can give you momentum, but it was nice to make a birdie on the last.

    “To shoot 69 in these conditions, we’re certainly happy.”

    The gusty winds of Friday and Saturday may not be the worst that players face before the title is decided.

    With storms forecast for Sunday, organizers said they would tee off early in a bid to get the tournament completed before heavy weather hit.

    The final round will be a better ball format, in which Blixt and Smith excelled on Friday.

    “Hopefully it doesn’t rain,” Smith said. “We’ll be out early and the course should be softer and hopefully we play like we did Friday (which was played in the four-ball format, the same as Sunday).

    “Tomorrow should be a fun day and hopefully the putts keep going in.”

    AFP

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