Watson, Jones tied at the top

American Bubba Watson and Australian Matt Jones share the lead after the first round of the Zurich Classic in Louisiana.

American Bubba Watson and Australian Matt Jones share the lead after the first round of the Zurich Classic in Louisiana.

Both players shot first-round six-under 66s to lead by one shot over a group of six players in a tightly packed leaderboard that sees as many as 13 players seperated by only two shots.

Watson, already a winner on Tour this year, made six birdies, two-putted from 32 feet for eagle on the par-5 11th, and added two more bogeys at TPC Louisiana. It’s a course he says is far from his favourite

“The way the course is, it just doesn’t fit my eye the way it is,” he said. “It’s a great golf course, a great layout. For me, it’s just not one that I want to play every day.

In fact, Watson is only really playing this week as a favour to his mother.

“My mom really wanted me to come,” he said. “My mom always comes to this golf tournament, so when my mom says she wants to come, I’m here. And somehow I shot 6 under today.

“It just worked out. I hit my driver really well. I’ve been hitting it good all year, but I made some putts and hit some good iron shots and somehow came out 6 under.”

Jones, meanwhile, had a hot putter to thank for his good round, as well as chip-in for birdie from 57 feet on his last hole.

“I pitched it perfectly,” Jones said. “It grabbed a little and just trickled in nicely.”

Jones made eight birdies and two bogeys in his round, which included birdie putts from 30 feet on the 17th, 11 feet on the 18th, and 20 feet on the first.

For Jones, it’s also a case of hard work done with swing coach Gary Barter starting to pay off.

“My hands are pretty sore, actually, after all the work we’ve done,” Jones said. “So it’s coming slowly. Today we saw some positives out of what we’ve been doing.”

Watson and Jones were both late starters on Thursday, and got the best of the conditions ater strong winds made play difficult in the morning.

“The guys set it up pretty well with the conditions that we had out there with the wind and everything,” Jones said. “The greens are perfect. And I played well. … I actually made a lot of putts today and chipped in on the last to finish the round, which is good.”

Tied at five under, one behind the leaders, are Joe Durant, Tommy Gainey, Carl Pettersson, John Rollins, Nick O’Hern and David Duval.

Luke Donald shook off the disappointment of his play-off loss last weekend and opened with a very competitive four-under 68 to lie only two shots back. The Englishman will be fighting it out for the trophy and the number one ranking this week.

Tied with Donald are Matt Bettencourt, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Charles Howell and KJ Choi.

US Open champ Graeme McDowell could do no better than a one-over 73, and lies seven shots off the pace.