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After setting the 18-, 36-, 54- and 72-hole scoring records en route to victory in last year's Zurich Classic, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were penciled in to successfully defend their title. That projection was quickly erased Thursday at the 2023 Zurich Classic as the world Nos. 4 and 5 found themselves 1 over through their first six holes. While they tried their best to battle back, a first-round 67 puts them six strokes off the pace of the early lead set by Brandon Matthews and Sean O'Hair as well as Beau Hossler and Wyndham Clark at 11 under.

The good news for Cantlay and Schauffele is their preferred format — foursomes — will be featured in Rounds 2 and 4. Additionally, dodgy weather is expected to roll into the TPC Louisiana area and may limit the ability of teams to make birdie in bunches potentially bunching this leaderboard heading into the weekend.

The bad news is there are a number of competent teams standing between them and the top of the leaderboard. Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell raced out the gates to a first-round 62 that even included a rare dropped shot in four-ball. Englishmen Matt and Alex Fitzpatrick sit at that same number after a well-rounded effort from the brothers while young guns Sahith Theegala and Justin Suh are one worse at 9 under.

With the top 33 teams and ties making their way into the second portion of the tournament, Friday's round of foursomes will separate the field in more ways than one.

The leaders

T1. Sean O'Hair/Brandon Matthews, Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler (-11)

They come across as an odd pair at first glance, but their skillsets do align nicely. Matthews is the longest player on earth (that is not a hyperbole) and O'Hair has been flashing some form recently especially with his irons and around the greens. The two ham-and-egg'd it pretty well but for the most part they both played really solid golf. The day was highlighted by Matthews' hole-out from the fairway on No. 12 and if he is able to consistently put O'Hair in position off the tee in Round 2, more of the same could be in store.

Other contenders

T3. Keith Mitchell/Sungjae Im, Matt Fitzpatrick/Alex Fitzpatrick, David Lipsky/Aaron Rai, Henrik Norlander/Luke List, S.Y. Noh/Michael Kim (-10)

T8. Doc Redman/Sam Ryder, Justin Suh/Sahith Theegala, Troy Merritt/Robert Streb, Joseph Bramlett/Brandon Wu, Martin Trainer/Chad Ramey (-9)

There have been numerous teams to claim their first career victory on the PGA Tour at the Zurich Classic and Suh and Theegala could be this year's edition. The reigning Korn Ferry Tour of the Year was in with a chance at the Honda Classic a few months ago while Theegala has experienced numerous close calls with seven top-six finishes in his last 24 starts. They have the firepower to keep up in four-ball, but the duo's play in foursomes will more than likely decide their fate.

"I feel like me and Justin have known each other so long, and we're good buddies and both pretty laid back," Theegala said. "We've been going back and forth since we were like 10 years old, it feels like. I don't even remember -- I think I brought it up at Napa, like the first event of the year, because I was pumped that Justin got his card. I was like, dude, let's fire up a team. Let's be a team for this event."

Did we just become best friends?

It's an odd pairing on paper, but Mitchell has been begging Im for this partnership for awhile and finally got his wish. The two went around TPC Louisiana in a 10-under fashion carding nine birdies, an eagle and a bogey. While they did post an impressive score in four-ball, this duo may be a better fit statistically for foursomes with Mitchell's driving prowess and Im's laser-like approach shots.

"I've always been his best friend," Mitchell said. "I just wanted him to like me back."

Brotherly love

It was very much a team effort from the Fitzpatrick family as the two brothers leaned on each other when necessary. With each carding five birdies on the day, the Fitzpatrick brothers were able to make their way to the top of the leaderboard at 10 under. The world No. 8 is coming off a fantastic week at the RBC Heritage where he captured his second victory on the PGA Tour. If he is to enter the winner's circle again this week, Fitzpatrick will not only grab his third victory but also secure playing privileges for baby bro.

"I hate that phrase [ham and egg]," said Matt Fitzpatrick. "Ham and egg is so American, and we're from England…We did great. I played really solid on the front nine, he played great on the back nine, and he bailed me out a few times, which was obviously very beneficial, and yeah, it was a great day."

2023 Zurich Classic updated odds and picks

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Sungjae Im/Keith Mitchell: 5-1
  • Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler: 6-1
  • Sahith Theegala/Justin Suh: 11-1
  • Sam Burns/Billy Horschel: 11-1
  • Matt Fitzpatrick/Alex Fitzpatrick: 12-1
  • Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele: 12-1
  • David Lipsky/Aaron Rai: 16-1
  • Collin Morikawa/Max Homa: 18-1

The defending champions are still right in the mix despite the early deficit. Cantlay and Schauffele are undefeated in foursomes between the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup and acquitted themselves quite nicely in this format a season ago with rounds of 68-72. Cantlay entered the week first in strokes gained off the tee while Schauffele ranks first in strokes gained approach over the last three months. Given this combination, the Americans should be able to steadily climb the leaderboard while others struggle. 

If looking for a bit more juice for your squeeze, the team of Will Gordon and Davis Thompson impressed on Thursday. After firing a 9-under 63, they sit only two stroke adrift at 28-1.

Rick Gehman is joined by Mark Immelman to discuss yet another lower body surgery for Tiger Woods and the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.