Friday turned out to be another long day at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
But the sun and accompanying heat, humidity and wind that greeted players who returned early to complete their first rounds didn’t seem to affect Jamie Lovemark and Jhonattan Vegas — at least not on their scorecards.
Both were on the course at TPC Louisiana for about nine hours Friday, but they didn’t mind when they moved to the top of the second-round leaderboard.
Lovemark finished his first round at 5-under-par 67 and went on to post the low round of the day, a 6-under 66 in the second round, to vault to the top spot at 11-under after playing 27 holes on the day. Vegas joined him at 11-under after playing 31 holes on the day, shooting a 64 in the first round and a 69 in the second.
Early first-round leader Brian Stuard, who posted a 64 on Thursday, was one stroke back at 10-under through 12 holes when play was suspended by darkness at 7:31 p.m. The 75 players still on the course when play was halted will return at 8 a.m. Saturday to complete their rounds. PGA Tour officials will make the cut to the top 70 players and ties, then start the third round at noon.
At least Lovemark and Vegas will be able to get some rest after two marathon days.
“I’m just happy to be alive,” Lovemark said after temperatures soared into the mid-80s. “I mean, it was hot and humid. … It was a hard walk. It was a long day, so I’m happy to be done.”
His play didn’t seem to suffer when he had three birdies and a bogey to finish his opening round, then recorded seven birdies to go with a bogey to take the lead.
“Most everything seems to be decent,” said Lovemark, who is winless in 79 career starts on the PGA Tour. “I would say I’m putting nice and being aggressive off the tee, driving it well.”
Vegas finished his first round with a bang despite starting with a bogey on the sixth hole. He responded with an eagle at the par-5 seventh and backed it up with a birdie at the eighth before starting the back nine with four birdies in a five-hole stretch to complete an 8-under 64.
The second round was more of the same. He overcame a double bogey on his second hole after starting with a birdie, battling back to put up four more birdies over the final 13 holes.
“The conditions were really tough in the second round, especially for the first 10 or 12 holes,” Vegas said. “The wind was really blowing, so I knew I had to play hard. So that’s kind of what I did. I kept my mind on one shot (at a time), and luckily I had a pretty decent round.”
One of the keys to being 9-under for the day, Vegas said, was his putting. He had 26 putts in each of his two trips around the TPC Louisiana layout, which started to dry out late in the day following Thursday’s rain, which delayed play for nearly five hours.
“I’ve been putting really well all season, and that has been the key for my consistency of play,” Vegas said. “So let’s keep it up.”
Another key was being patient.
“It was going to be a long day, so I just kind of kept the mentality and hit one shot at a time and just played as hard as I can,” he said. “The course was a little easier in the morning with the greens being soft. But the wind picked up in the afternoon, and the course became really hard. I had to do a little bit of scrambling in the second 18, but I’m fortunate to be where I am right now.”
Stuard played steady golf when he finally got on the course late in the afternoon, parring each of his first nine holes after starting his round on the back nine.
But he made the turn to the front side and picked up back-to-back birdies before closing with a par on No. 3 before the suspension of play.
Harold Varner III shot a 67 on Friday and is alone in fourth place at 8-under 136 — three shots behind Lovemark and Vegas and two behind Stuard.
Four players were tied for fifth at 7-under: 2015 PGA Tour rookie of the year Daniel Berger, Patton Kizzire, Thomas Aiken and Patrick Rodgers.