Bubba Watson, left, and Matt Kuchar line up a put on the ninth hole at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in Avondale on Thursday, April 26, 2018.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

Unfortunately for two-time Masters and former Zurich Classic champion Bubba Watson, and for his playing partner Matt Kuchar, there were fewer face-slaps during Saturday’s third round.

Allow us to explain.

Watson and Kuchar, the bronze medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, decided their answer to the clichéd fist-bumps and rear-taps would be face-slaps after either one of them make a birdie.

“I figured this was a good opportunity for me to slap Bubba in the face,” Kuchar explained before the round. “Everybody wants to do that, and I talked him into it.”

Watson was remarkably enthusiastic.

“At the end of the day, I want a bruise,” said Watson, who won here as a solo act in 2011. “That means we’re doing well.”

Watson and Kuchar followed up Friday’s 67 with a 4-under-par 68 to get to 13-under 203 in Saturday’s best-ball format, putting them only in a tie for 24th place.

Your hit parade

Saturday brought the much anticipated walk-up music for the teams that survived the cut, a first for a PGA Tour event.

The first song? Appropriately, Denny McCarthy and Joel Dahmen chose Kenny Loggins' “I’m Alright,” the theme song from “Caddyshack.”

Watson and Kuchar were a hit with the locals with their choice of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” LSU’s John Peterson and partner Cody Gribble delivered “Careless Whisper” by George Michael, which broke up both them and the crowd. And Justin Rose needed a hug from partner Henrik Stenson when their walk-up song “Gold” by Spandau Ballet started lilting over the first tee box.

Meanwhile, Russell Knox and Martin Laird remained true to their Scottish roots with a bagpipe version of “Flower of Scotland.”

Replacing the new dad

McCarthy was a last-minute substitute Thursday for Martin Piller. Piller withdrew because his wife, LPGA star Gerina Piller, went into labor that morning with their first child.

McCarthy certainly made the most of opportunity. He and Dahmen shot a 10-under 62 Saturday to move into a tie for 14th at 15-under 201.

“We didn’t even know if we were going to be playing together at the beginning of the week,” McCarthy said. “Found some momentum (Friday) and it continued (Saturday).”

McCarthy said he arrived at TPC Louisiana at 6 a.m. Thursday, prepared to wait all day to see if anyone withdrew. He got a text shortly after reaching the course that he would be playing with Dahmen, a friend from the Tour.

The Pillers, by the way, had their child Thursday, though no word on a name or whether it was a future PGA or LPGA player.

“Good thing he got back home,” Dahmen said.

Is he a grinder, too?

As Tom Hoge prepared to tee off Saturday with teammate J.J. Henry, Fore!Kids Foundation member Kevin Colomb correctly pronounced his name as “Tom Hoagie” as he announced the group to the crowd.

As Hoge was preparing to hit, some local in the gallery shouted out: “Tom Po-Boy!”

Only in New Orleans.


The tournament will be televised at noon Sunday on the Golf Channel and 2 p.m. on CBS. ... Fidelity Bank teamed up this year with the Zurich Classic to become title sponsor of the popular Champions Club as well as official bank of the tournament. The Fidelity Bank Champions Club, which features signature dishes from some of the top restaurants in New Orleans and south Louisiana, is located on a ridge overlooking TPC Louisiana’s 18th fairway. ... While the Zurich Classic does not keep actual attendance figures (tournament organizers count cars), attendance was believed to be higher than last year, the first year of the team format.

Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​