Winning on the PGA Tour is difficult. Each and every year, the circuit is replenished with fresh new talent while the mainstays remain at the top. Just ask Davis Riley and Nick Hardy who are in the middle of their second seasons and claimed their first career titles at the 2023 Zurich Classic at 30 under after rounds of 64-66-63-65.
"This is so special and to share it with one of my best friends out here on Tour is a dream come true," Riley said. "The progression of playing high school, college golf and playing PGA Tour golf is super special and to share this moment with Nick is pretty cool."
While Riley wasn't even supposed to play in this event after he teamed up with injured Will Zalatoris in 2022, Hardy originally sought the services of his former collegiate teammate Thomas Detry. The Belgian decided to pair with a potential European Ryder Cup teammate Victor Perez, and as such, Hardy looked in the direction of Riley, a fellow PGA Tour sophomore and longtime friend.
Their relationship that began at the age of 14 proved to be fruitful as they set the all-time tournament scoring record and surpassed the mark set by defending champions Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
Beginning the day three strokes off the pace set by Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler, the winning duo didn't really get into gear until the back nine on Sunday. Turning in a respectable 2 under, Hardy and Riley found their stride with five back-nine birdies including a near ace on the par-3 14th struck by Riley.
"All I had to do was hear it," Hardy said of Riley's shot. "It was the purest 5 iron I have ever heard, I didn't even watch it and it almost went in obviously. It was really solid down the stretch and it just feels great to close."
This would pull them into a share of the lead with a surging Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin and a sputtering Hossler and Clark. With the Canadians setting the clubhouse lead at 28 under, the young guns kept their heads down and went to work. A clutch birdie on the short par-4 16th put them in control before an unlikely bid from off the green on 17 slammed the door shut on Hossler and Clark who were behind them on the golf course.
For Hardy and Riley, this moment was years in the making. Both AJGA All-Americans growing up, the two have dealt with the difficulties of playing on the PGA Tour first hand. Hardy fought injury in the latter stages of 2022, aggravating his wrist at this very tournament, and was forced to go through the Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs to retain his playing privileges. Riley meanwhile has experienced his fair share of close calls with the winner's circle.
Even more importantly, this catapults both of them inside the top 40 of the FedEx Cup and secures their playing privileges moving forward. Beginning the week outside the top 80, they are both locks to make their way into the postseason and are proof these regular events still hold significant weight and importance for those players itching to make a name for themselves. Grade: A+
Here is the breakdown of the rest of the notable teams on the leaderboard at the 2023 Zurich Classic.
3. Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler (-27): For the majority of the tournament, it felt as if the first time winners would be Clark and Hossler. Holding at least a share of the lead after each round, the two were on their way early in the final round. Carding a couple early birdies, the wheels began to fall off when a sloppy bogey was made on the par-5 7th. Unable to take advantage of the short 8th, additional birdie bids would fall by the wayside on the back nine. The inability to take advantage of the par 5s and short par 4s was ultimately their downfall and opened the door for the eventual winners to walk through. Despite this disappointment, the week should be chalked up as a success as both players tasted contention for the first time in a while. Grade: A
T4. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (-26): While their play in foursomes was impressive, their play in four-ball simply fell short. Signing for rounds of 67-66, the two friends were unable to card enough birdies in the easier format to apply pressure on the rest of the field. While their quality shined in the difficult alternate shot, by that point, it was too little too late. They came into the week as heavy favorites and will be kicking themselves for not kick-starting their season at this event as they did last year. With only 17 events left in the season, the two remain winless as spring enters its latter stages.
"Best ball wasn't our best format this year compared to last year," Cantlay said. "We both had some opportunities to save some pars and make some putts that we didn't make this year. Coming down the stretch, I just hit a poor drive on 18 and put him in a bad spot. That was kind of the story of the week. We didn't necessarily hit all the great shots when we needed to." Grade: C
6. Keith Mitchell/Sungjae Im (-25): After getting into a share of the lead with an opening birdie, these two failed to set up realistic birdie opportunities on a consistent basis. Both players were to blame as loose shots off the tee from Mitchell handcuffed Im and poor iron shots from Im left Mitchell in a pickle. Still, if there was a team that would be classified as a winner despite not raising hardware, it is these two. Seemingly becoming best friends out of thin air, Im and Mitchell cultivated a bromance few expected. Grade: B
T7. Si Woo Kim/Tom Kim (-23): The International Presidents Cup teammates from Quail Hollow were unable to capture the same type of magic at TPC Louisiana. They acquitted themselves quite nicely in foursomes with rounds of 67-68, but similar to Cantlay and Schauffele, were unable to produce enough fireworks in Rounds 1 and 3. After both got off to scorching starts to the 2022-23 season with victories, perhaps this week will act as a launchpad for the final few months of the year as their quality has dropped ever so slightly. Grade: C
MC. Collin Morikawa/Max Homa (--): The Californians were never able to get things going around TPC Louisiana as they followed a round of 6 under in four-ball with a 2-under 70 in foursomes to miss the cut by one. Despite their pedigree, it was always going to be difficult for this team to compete in this shootout style given Morikawa's shortcomings with the putter in hand and Homa's lackluster tee to green presence over the last month. Morikawa carried the brunt of the weight and should be able to brush this missed cut off. Meanwhile, Homa may be different as his struggles since the Florida Swing have continued to persist. Grade: F
Source: CBS Sports