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Martin Tabasco-Hot in Opening Round of Zurich Classic


Ben Martin was as fiery in the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans as the famed Tabasco Sauce made on Louisiana's Avery Island. Martin, a 26-year-old Georgian, came out in torrid fashion, carding six birdies on the front nine to make the turn in 6-under 30.

Martin continued to roll on the home half. The former Clemson Tiger tacked on four more birdies for a course-record-setting 10-under 62, good for a two-stroke lead in the $6.8 million PGA Tour event that started Thursday at TPC Louisiana.

Martin had no clue he was setting a new mark on the course. "I didn't know until after the round. I think my dad told me it was a course record by two shots. I knew I was playing well, but I had no idea what the course record was."

Martin added he's gone that low before, but never in a tournament. "I've shot 62 at my home course, and I shot 61 at the Palmetto Club in Aiken, South Carolina. But competitively, all of those were not competitive rounds. Competitively, this is my best round by two shots, I believe."

Martin lost his Tour card after 2011 by finishing 153rd on the money list, but he's has enjoyed a fine 2014 season so far. In 14 starts this year he's had two top-10 finishes, with his T-3 in last week's RBC Heritage matching the best finish of his short career.

Martin surpassed the previous TPC Louisiana record of 64 - shared by several players - by two strokes.

Several other players also went low in New Orleans. Andrew Svoboda carded an eight-birdie 64 and Sweden's Peter Hanson and South Korean Seung-Yul Noh had 65s.

Hanson had the shot of the day when he eagled the par-4 sixth after his 183-yard approach rolled into the cup.

Four behind Martin are Americans Erik Compton, Chad Collins and Michael Thompson. Jeff Overton, Stuart Appleby and Robert Streb opened with 67s.

Posting 68s were Doug LaBelle II, David Lingmerth, David Duval, Charles Howell III, J.J. Henry, D.H. Lee, Sang-Moon Bae, Charley Hoffman and Will Wilcox.

Duval, a former No. 1 with 13 career victories on the PGA Tour, hasn't visited the winner's circle since the 2001 British Open. Now 42 years old, the Florida native, who now makes his home in Colorado, is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption.

Duval is hoping his strong start in the Pelican State is a sign of better things to come. "I'm doing everything I can to be as prepared as I can be when I do get to play," he told PGATour.com of his uncertain playing schedule. "Today, there was no fatigue, no anything. I had a spring in my step the whole day."

Working with instructor Chris O'Connell seems to have restored what once was considered one of the best swings in golf. "I'm not delusional about it now, I know how I'm hitting the golf ball and how I'm swinging the club," he said. "I feel comfortable. I feel natural again. I feel like the timing is right."

Defending champion Billy Horschel, who finished at 20-under 268 to edge D.A. Points by a stroke last year, had a tough day, posting a 74. Horschel's playing partners on Thursday and Friday, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler, also had their difficulties, shooting rounds of 74 and 75, respectively.

Other scores included a 69 by 2011 PGA champion Keegan Bradley and a 70 by three-time major winner Padraig Harrington. Also posting 70s were major champions Ben Curtis and Vijay Singh.

Matt Kuchar, who the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, is taking this week off.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.