AVONDALE, La. – Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson have shared European team rooms at past Ryder Cups, but they’ve never actually played together in competition.
Maybe that was a mistake.
McDowell and Stenson matched the low alternate-shot round of the day with a 5-under 67 in Round 2 of the Zurich Classic, getting to 12 under for the week at TPC Louisiana.
The Euro duo didn’t get any golf in onThursday thanks to a 7-hour, 33-minute rain delay and played 36 holes Friday with a short break between rounds.
“We had a long today today,” Stenson said. “We have a bit of a lay-in tomorrow. It’s been a disrupted week for everyone one way or the other, and possibly the conditions for the guys who played yesterday and finished up this morning were a little easier. But we didn’t have to sit in the clubhouse all day yesterday. So there’s been plus and minuses for everyone, I think, and we’re happy to be at the races.”
Stenson played with Justin Rose in 2018 and called McDowell after Rose decided to skip the tournament this year. That was before McDowell won in Puntacana last month for his first PGA Tour title since 2016.
“I said to him, I look forward to you resurrecting my career for me at New Orleans,” McDowell said. “Thankfully I didn’t need to wait that long. But listen, really happy to get this pairing.”
McDowell played with Ian Poulter last year, but Poulter paired with 22-year-old Englishman Sam Horsfield in order to get a player he mentors into the tournament.
McDowell joked that he “upgraded” this year and the fact that both he and Stenson ended up moving on from past English partners.
“Nothing good comes out of England, really,” McDowell said.
The two players shot a solid 7-under 65 in best-ball Friday morning but really turned it up for alternate-shot with just one bogey on the card and a spectacular birdie at the par-5 seventh hole.
Stenson blasted his tee shot way left into the trees, but McDowell hit a great out and left Stenson 136 yards to the flag. The Northern-Irishman then drained the 19-foot putt left from Stenson’s approach shot.
“It was really pleasing to play as well as we did in what I consider the toughest format in golf,” McDowell said.
It probably helped playing with such a familiar teammate. Stenson and McDowell both live in the Orlando area and use the same coach, Pete Cowen, at the same practice facility, in Lake Nona, Fla.
Stenson’s 11-year-old daughter also spends a lot of time with McDowell’s 10-year-old daughter.
“With Justin not playing this week, I was very, very pleased when I got the text from Henrik,” McDowell said.
Now the two will wait around Saturday morning while half the field returns at 7 a.m. to complete their second rounds. Tournament organizers are hoping all teams will be able to finish third-round best ball by the end of Saturday night to get back on schedule for final-round alternate shot on Sunday.
Going low on Saturday to take advantage of best-ball is a must. Based on the 36-hole showing in Round 2, it looks like the newly-formed duo is ready to make another charge.
“I think if we want to be here until the very end, we need to step it up a little bit tomorrow and go out and have a solid day,” Stenson said.