Lowry and Harrington make a strong start in the Zurich Classic

Irish pairing three shots off the lead of China’s Dou and Zhang after opening four ball

Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington are three off the lead after the first round of the Zurich Classic. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty

China’s Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng belied their low world rankings and picked off birdies at their final three holes to tie for the lead after the first round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday.

The first two players from China to earn PGA Tour membership looked at home with the game’s elite as they carded 12-under-par 60 in the four ball (best ball) format at TPC Louisiana.

Dou ran in a 30-foot putt for birdie at the last as the pair joined American duo Lucas Glover and Chez Reavie in the lead, while six other teams shot 62.

A shot further back were the pair of Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington, whose 63 leaves them firmly in the mix in New Orleans.


Graeme McDowell - partnering the in-form Ian Poulter - is two strokes further back on seven under par, while the duo of Seamus Power and Canada's David Hearn are on six under par after their 66.

The only official event on the PGA Tour with a team format, the Zurich Classic uses four ball (best ball) in the first and third rounds, and (alternate shot) foursomes in the second and final rounds.

Dou, 21, is ranked 476th in the world. He became the first player from China to win on the PGA Tour’s secondary Web.com Tour when he captured the Digital Ally Open last year.

Zhang, 30, is a two-times PGA Tour China winner, and is that tour’s all-time leading money-winner. He is ranked 301st in the world.

Glover, meanwhile, said he had tried to support his partner’s hot hand by playing somewhat conservatively as he and Reavie tied for the lead.

“There was a stretch there I was trying to do that, trying to hit it to 20 feet and let him hit it to 10 and it really worked,” said the 2009 US Open champion.

“We hit a bunch of good putts and we were reading them right.”

Patrick Reed made a good return to competition in his first start since winning the US Masters three weeks ago as he and partner Patrick Cantlay carded 65.

US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who missed nearly four months due to a torn left wrist ligament, marked his return with a 67 with Marc Turnesa.

The shot of the day belonged to American Ron Oppenheim, who holed out from 261 yards with a three-wood at the par-five seventh for an albatross as he and partner Nate Lashley shot 64.

Zurich Classic first round scores:

60 Reavie/Glover, Zhang/Dou (Chn)
62 Finau/Summerhays, Paisley/Fleetwood (Gbr), Kim/Putnam,Henry/Hoge,Merritt/de Jonge,Kisner/Brown
63 Lowry/Harrington (Ire), Campbell/Jones
64 Garnett/Hadley, Walker/O'Hair, Varner III/ Garrigus,Knox/Laird (Sco),Lashley/Oppenheim,Steele/Lovemark,Cejka(Ger)/Crane,Werenski/Lindheim,Dunca n/Schenk,Day/Ruffels (Aus)
65 McDowell/Poulter (Irl/Gbr), Horschel/Piercy,Randolph/Mullinax,Rose/Stenson (Gbr),Kirk/Poston,Reed/Cantlay,Hughes/Conners (Can),Goosen/Van Aswegen (Rsa), Hoffman/Watney,Duval/Furyk,Blixt/Smith (Swe)
66 Kim/Yun (Kor), Ancer/Diaz (Mex), Spieth/Palmer,Schwartzel/Oosthuizen (Rsa),Kaufman/Lovelady,Gay/Wise,Chalmers/Percy (Aus),Bradley/Curran,Dufner/Perez,Landry/Gooch,Johnson/Byrd,Kang/Huh (Kor), Silverman/Atkins (Can),Gribble/Peterson,Points/Thompson,Donaldson/Fisher,Snedeker/Holmes,Bryan/Ra hm,Power/Hearn (Ire),Berger/Woodland
67 Garcia/Cabrera Bello (Spa), Choi/Wi (Kor), Stefani/Rollins,Pan/Blair (Chn),McGirt/Burns,Mitchell/Jaeger,Stricker/Kelly,Koepka/Turnesa,Every/Saunders, Blaum/Barber,Baddeley/Stallings (Aus)
68 McCarthy/Dahmen, Watson/Kuchar, Grillo/Uihlein (Arg), Harkins/Griffin,Na/Hun An,Stroud/Stuard,Swafford/English,Lingmerth/Lee (Swe),Sabbatini/Daly (Rsa)
69 Hurley III/Malnati, Gomez/Romero (Arg), Armour/Wagner,Stegmaier/Tringale, Spaun/Ryder
70 Thomas/Cauley, Tway/Kraft
72 Flores/Merrick, Knost/Barnes