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AVONDALE, La. — Following a best-ball round of 67 that included three bogeys and had them outside the cutline, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele had an ambitious score in mind for Friday’s more difficult alternate-shot format.

“As low as possible,” Schauffele said with a smirk.

Mission accomplished. The defending Zurich Classic of New Orleans champions made an eagle and seven birdies and shot a tournament-record 9-under 63 at TPC Louisiana. That was not only a ridiculous four strokes better than their best-ball tally from a day earlier but also shattered the previous alternate-shot tournament record by two strokes. How did Cantlay and Schauffele explain the way they flipped the script?

“It was just necessary,” Schauffele said.

“When you get two world-class players playing together and we both have a day where we’re on like today, we can post a low one,” Cantlay said.

Their opening-round 67, which included a sluggish start of 1-over through six holes, was “an anomaly,” as Cantlay put it, and after a “painful chuckle,” the Nos. 4 and 5 players in the world righted the ship before a sloppy finish on the way to the house.

But they had a quick turnaround – Cantlay’s alarm blared at 3:30 a.m., Schauffele woke at 4 – and they were motivated to put up a fight in their title defense. They also knew that the foursomes, or alternate-shot format, has been their jam, particularly in international competition.

They wasted little time charging up the leaderboard. Schauffele set the tone by stiffing a wedge from 100 yards to a foot at No. 10, their first hole of the day. Cantlay had a little more work to do at 11, sinking a 5-foot birdie at the par 5. At 13, Schauffele drained a 31-foot birdie from just off the green for their third birdie in their first four holes. On an otherwise stress-free day, Schauffele drove it into a bunker at 15 but Cantlay bailed him out by nailing an 18-foot par putt.

On fire

Team Schauffele/Cantlay move to T1 after another birdie @Zurich_Classic.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 21, 2023

At the short, par-4 16th, Cantlay ripped a 311-yard drive, Schauffele pitched to 4 feet and Cantlay cleaned up on the green. Two holes later, they capped off their first nine in style with Cantlay holing a 15-foot eagle putt to tour the back nine in a tournament record 6-under 30.

“He didn’t need any help reading the putt,” Schauffele said. “He just knocked it right in.”

“The eagle at 18 was big,” Cantlay added. “We knew we had to play well today to give ourselves a chance to get back into this tournament, and we’re in a good spot going into the weekend.”

There would be no slowing down after making the turn. At the first, it was Schauffele’s turn to bury a 15-foot birdie. Even Schauffele hitting his approach at the par-5 second into a bunker 40 yards short of the green didn’t slow them down as Cantlay exploded to inside 3 feet for another routine birdie. Schauffele’s putter heated up for one more circle on the card, a 24-foot birdie at the fifth. The only thing that dampened their performance was a suspension of play that delayed the round for two hours and 47 minutes.

“We were flowing pretty good leading into that break, so who knows what would have happened,” Schauffele said.

The previous tournament foursomes record of 65 had been held by the teams of Jon Rahm-Ryan Palmer in 2019 and Garrick Higgo-Branden Grace and Jason Day-Jason Scrivener in 2022. The Cantlay-Schauffele duo continues to re-write the tournament record book – already holding the 18-hole best-ball mark and 54-hole and 72-hole tournament scoring marks. On Saturday, the tournament format returns to best-ball play. Asked whether they had any more records they were gunning for, Cantlay said, “We’d like to get that 59 again in best ball. We’re going to try.”