Nick Hardy/Davis Riley win Zurich Classic for first PGA TOUR titles
WESTWEGO, La. – Nick Hardy and Davis Riley have a lot in common as members of the PGA TOUR.
They were both born in 1996 and both entered the Zurich Classic with one Top 10 finish on TOUR and no wins.
Now they have something more significant in common after teaming up to win the Zurich with a record score of 30-under par at TPC Louisiana.
They began the final round tied for third place, three shots off the lead, and shot 65. They finished two shots ahead of Canadians Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor, three shots ahead of third-round leaders Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler and four shots ahead of defending champions Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay, and Matthew NeSmith/Taylor Moore.
“I feel like we both handled it very well coming down the stretch,” Hardy said, “to be able to do that together, kind of rub off each other’s confidence and sort of attitude. It was definitely special to have a partner for the first one.”
Riley called the challenge of getting the first PGA win “nerve-wracking,” but birdies at No. 13 and No. 14 helped settle the nerves. A birdie at No. 16 gave them sole possession of the lead at 29-under and “a bonus” birdie at No. 17 gave them a two-shot lead.
Moments later Clark/Hossler bogeyed 16 to put Hardy/Riley in control with a three-shot lead.
“I kind of always felt like we were in position, but I knew coming down the back nine we’re going to have to make a couple birdies,” Riley said. “Especially when Nick made that nice birdie putt on 13, and then whenever we made birdie on 14, I was like, OK, we’re right in the thick of this thing.
“Nick hit a really nice wedge on 16, and then I made the putt. Then I kind of knew we were in a spot, and we could kind of control our own destiny.”
Hardy, 27, is from Northbook, Illinois and played at the University of Illinois. Riley, 26, is from Hattiesburg, Mississippi and played at the University of Alabama.
“Just to have friends, family, and others out there was really cool,” Riley said, “and to get it done in front of a home crowd for the first time was really special.”
Hardy also had a rooting section and the timing of the victory was special to him. On the fourth hole of the final day at the 2022 Zurich, he hit a wedge awkwardly and hurt his wrist. He finished the round but wound up missing five weeks.
“I just look back to last year now,” Hardy said, “and we’ve kind of come pretty far.”
The Hardy/Riley pairing almost didn’t happen, though the two have known each other since they were teen-agers.
Up until a few weeks ago, Riley was “on the fence” as far as playing in the Zurich and Hardy was planning to team with fellow Illinois alumnus Thomas Detry. But USA Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson wanted Detry to team with Victor Perez.
So a couple of weeks ago Hardy and Riley hooked up via text messages and the pairing was set. Detry/Perez, by the way, finished tied for 13th at 20-under.
Meanwhile, Hadwin/Taylor had seven consecutive birdies from No. 7 through No. 13 and went into the clubhouse tied for the lead at 28-under. They had a chance to tie the then-tournament 72-hole record of 29-under par, but their 6½-foot birdie putt lipped out at 18, leaving them tied with Hardy/Riley and Clark/Hossler, who were still on the course.
Still, Hadwin/Taylor had a 63 for the day, tying the tournament Foursome record set by Schauffele/Cantlay on Friday.
“Once we got through 14, 15 and we’re still 9-under par, I actually said to my caddie, ‘I want that record.’” Hadwin said. “We had some good looks actually the last three holes. The putts kind of just didn’t fall like they did the first 15.”
The defending champions began the day at 20-under and had three birdies and one bogey on the front and got to 27-under when they made their fifth birdie on the backside at No. 15. But they bogeyed No. 18 to finish at 26-under.
“We didn’t necessarily hit all the great shots when we needed to,” Cantlay said. “That was kind of the story of the week.”
Keith Mitchell/Sungjae Im, who began Sunday in second place one shot behind Clark/Hossler, finished sixth at 25-under after shooting 72.
Former LSU golfer Sam Burns and teammate Billy Horschel finished tied for 11th at 21-under after shooting 71 on Sunday.
Hardy and Riley both earned $1,242,700 from the purse of $8.6 million. It was the 64th edition of the PGA TOUR’s stop in New Orleans and sixth since the adoption of team play.
There won’t be any last-minute scrambling for the Hardy/Riley pairing next year.
“We’ll definitely be back to defend,” Riley said. “I’m really glad it worked out the way it did.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…