Halfway hut at the Zurich Classic: Tony Finau and Cameron Champ take relaxed route to the top

The American pairing are both big-hitters, but it’s their laid-back attitude that’s fuelling their charge toward victory at TPC Louisiana.

Foursomes is a potentially messy business.

Players have spent all week discussing all manner of thorny dilemmas.

They've agonised over which ball to use, fretted about letting their partner down, worried about staying focused when only hitting half as many shots, fussed about keeping loose at the same time, brooded over the puzzle of who tees off from the odd holes and who from the even.

The latter, in particular, is a minefield. How do you determine it? Data? Science? Neuro Linguistic Programming?

If you're Tony Finau and Cameron Champ you just toss a coin on the range.

Yep, sometimes it's better to say it with a kiss (keep is simple, stupid) and that's the route the relaxed big-hitters have taken to the top at the halfway stage of the 2021 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

On Friday they added an equal-low round of the day 68 to their opening 63 to total 13-under 131, a score matched later in the day by the pre-round leaders Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura.

The two teams hold a two shot advantage over the veteran English-Swedish combo of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who share third with Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler.

The chilled out vibe from the Finau-Champ camp extended beyond cutting through the complications with a quick coin flip.

Finau explained that the ticklish issue of balls was another they kept straightforward.

"We haven't put too much thought into the ball," he said, a line that might panic some were it not for the uncomplicated explanation: "Cameron was just happy to play mine."

No faff. Job done. Lovely stuff.

Care-free can sometimes become careless, of course, but not on Friday. In a tricky blustery wind the two faced problems, but also negotiated them. Champ revealed: "We hit a few squirrelly shots but we were able to make pars to keep the round going."

Finau, famously, owns nine second place finishes since he claimed his only victory on the PGA Tour in 2016, three of them in a four week period this year alone.

It bothers the wider golfing world because love for Finau is extensive - he's a smooth swinger with a big smile; the cut of his jib has earned him many fans.

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Could the format change help him get over the finishing line?

"I haven't thought about that much this week," he said. "You know, when Sunday comes I'll probably have a better answer for you.

"I know we're having a good time with this format up to this point. We've both played some really solid golf and we find ourselves at the top of the leaderboard.

"We'll do what we've been doing the last couple days, which is enjoy each other's company and not add any bonus pressure when it comes to teammate golf.

"We've done a good job of that, and we'll continue that the next couple days."

Finau/Champ are a best price of 5/2 with Hovland/Ventura a high of 7/2, both prices at SkyBet.

Watson/Scheffler are rated 7/1 with Boylesport and Rose/Stenson best price 11/1 with Paddy Power.

Stats

Two of the three winning partnerships in this tournament's history were tied for the lead at this stage, which gives great heart to those currently at the top of the leaderboard.

But there is plenty of hope for the rest of the field.

When Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy won they were seven shots back at the halfway stage, while Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, playoff losers in 2017, were five adrift at the same stage.

What both those teams needed to do, and executed perfectly, was go very low in their final circuit of fourballs. The former crashed a Saturday 61, the latter a final day 60 (when fourballs were used for the even rounds).

Also, if we were to look at those currently 9-under for the tournament and better, one trend counts against the Smith/Leishman and Oosthuizen/Schwartzel combinations because, with the exception of one round played in very poor conditions in 2018, every winning team has managed to break 70 in both foursomes laps.

That leaves us with a shortlist of the top four teams and also Richy Werenski/Peter Uihlein. Could they spring a surprise at 33/1 with Bet365?

Werenski was a first-time winner on the PGA Tour last year, finished fourth at Bay Hill last month and putted okay while missing the cut last week. And Uihlein? He not only won last week on the Korn Ferry Tour but was second in the Louisiana Open last month; he had a hot putter at both.

Quotes

Graeme McDowell on being told his hole-in-one at the 17th was unofficial:

"Official? I don't care if it's official, unofficial. I'm pretty sure it says one on the scorecard."

Marc Leishman on he and partner Cameron Smith hanging in with a hard-fought round of 72:

"Foursomes is hard. You're hitting half the shots, there's no rhythm. There's consequences for every shot. You've got to make sure you're loose between shots. It's more stressful because you don't want to let your partner down. But I think, with me and him being such good mates, it makes it a little easier."

Henrik Stenson on he and Justin Rose getting back into the tournament:

"Foursomes is always a tricky format. We know that. But it's never going to be as tricky when you've got a good partner like I do. We talked about that earlier in the week - it's important to trust."

And Rose agrees:

"Yeah, for sure. I mean, I a problem shared is a problem halved in this format for sure. Henrik was a rock today. It's like he says, we see the game very similarly and I think alternate-shot is probably where we've had most success in Ryder Cups."

Bubba Watson on his unlikely fondness for foursomes:

"It's funny, we were talking about this out there. I feel like this is my better format because it keeps me focused. It keeps me focused on making sure he's relaxed and then I know for a fact once I keep him relaxed, that's going to make me relaxed and I'm going to be ready to go. That five-hour round plus that we played yesterday? Gosh, it's just hard for me to stay focused for that long, I think for anybody. This format is so much better for us."

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Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose are making moves.

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Bubba Watson knows his partner will play his best golf when he's relaxed.

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