At last year’s Zurich Classic, Nick Hardy’s rookie PGA Tour season was derailed.
He suffered a left wrist injury, forcing him to miss two months and eventually have to re-earn his PGA Tour card at the Korn Ferry Finals.
In contrast, his partner this week, Davis Riley, had a tremendous rookie season in 2022, nearly making the Tour Championship at No. 36 in the FedEx Cup standings. But he didn’t get a win.
This week though, Riley and Hardy each collected their first PGA Tour title after the pair shot 65 Sunday in alternate shot to finish at 30 under and win the Zurich Classic by two strokes. Riley and Hardy are the second and third players to win their first Tour title at the Zurich since it became a team event in 2017 when Cameron Smith did in the format’s debut.
“I feel like we both handled it very well coming down the stretch,” Hardy said. “First timers, obviously. So to be able to do that together, kind of rub off each other’s confidence and sort of attitude. It was definitely special to have a partner for the first one.”
And while the second-year players had to team up for their first wins, they still get all the benefits of an individual PGA Tour win, namely exempt status on the Tour through 2025. They’ll also both get 400 FedEx Cup points, moving them into the top 40 in the season standings, and split the $2,485,400 winner’s share.
While both players will gladly take the benefits, it likely means even more to Hardy, who also was playing this season under a major medical exemption because of the time he missed due to the wrist injury. He returned last June and even factored in the U.S. Open at Brookline, finishing T14 after going into the weekend just two back of the lead.
“I got hurt on this day last year here. I hurt my wrist here on this day. I was actually in the hospital probably at this point last year. So it’s a lot better place to be at here,” Hardy said. “to bounce back from that, those things, is definitely huge for me. Yeah, I just look back to last year now, and we’ve kind of come pretty far.”
The win was also unlikely because the pairing only came about three weeks ago. Hardy was slated to play with fellow Illinois alumnus Thomas Detry, but the Belgian was asked by European Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald to play with Victor Perez. Hardy then texted his friend since the age of 14, Riley, to set up the pairing.
They entered the final round three back of leader Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler at 23 under.
The Canadian duo of Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin were the story early in the afternoon, however. They made seven straight birdies to take the lead at 28-under on 13, but they parred the last five holes to finish at that number and tie the tournament alternate shot record of 63.
Clark and Hossler stalled midway through the round, allowing Riley and Hardy to pounce with five birdies on the back nine, including Riley’s clutch birdie putt from off the green on 17 to extend their lead to two.
The pair laid up on the par-5 18th and made an easy five to post a tournament record 30 under and hold on for the win. Clark and Hossler settled for a 71 and solo third behind the Canadians.
“It was nerve-racking honestly,” Riley said. “Any time you’re trying to win a golf tournament, more or less to get your first win is always tough. You’re going to have to kind of step up there and hit some shots. Fortunately, we were able to kind of execute some really good shots coming down the stretch, and it was really fun.”