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Rise and shine: First group combines for 17 under

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AVONDALE, La. – The first group off at the Zurich Classic on Thursday exemplified 'rise and shine.'

Ken Duke, Daniel Chopra and David Hearn collectively played a bogey-free three-ball in 17 under from the 7:10 a.m. tee time. Duke led the morning wave with 7-under 65, Chopra was a shot behind and Hearn rounded out the group with 68.

For Duke and Chopra, in particular, they could not wait to get to the course this morning. Duke, an Arkansas native, feels the New Orleans stop is practically a home game.

'I just think the fans and lot of the people on the (tournament) board that I got to know and some of the volunteers, it feels like I'm playing in my home course,' he said. 'If you look on the PGA Tour, there's guys that play good in certain spots and seems like this is mine.'

Chopra has struggled all season to find a groove. The Swede found it in on a course as friendly to Duke as him. His Thursday 66 was his best round of a start-and-stop year by four shots. 

This event had been circled on his calendar for weeks.

'About a month ago I was already looking forward to this event,' he said. 'I wanted to get back to playing courses that I enjoy and having had success in the past.'

On this day, the early bird got the worm. Duke knows he was part of a fortunate grouping.

'Lucky to get up on the right side of the bed when you come here,' he said. 'This golf course will get you if you get the wrong way.'

With a high noon tee time tomorrow, the trio can sleep long and easy but, like kids on Christmas morning, they may not be able to contain their excitement to keep on playing.

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