AVONDALE — A return to health and a slight adjustment on the putting green have former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover in the title hunt again.
After two injuries ended his 2012 PGA Tour season in August, Glover last month finally got over the knee surgery that laid him up for six weeks in the fall and drove him to boredom.
While health is important to a pro golfer, a change in putting technique has Glover in the lead at the halfway point of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana.
Glover, who has won only once in 83 starts since claiming the U.S. Open title in 2009, wielded a hot putter for the second straight day Friday and backed up his 7-under-par 65 in the opening round with a 67.
The top five players are separated by one stroke each going into the weekend’s play. Glover is in the lead with a 36-hole score of 132, followed by Boo Weekley (65-68—133), D.A. Points (66-68—134), Morgan Hoffmann (66-69—135) and Ernie Els (67-69—136).
Seventy-one golfers made the cut at 3-under 141 or better. They’ll begin third-round play at 7:15 a.m. Saturday, with the leaders teeing off at 12:45 p.m.
Among those making the cut were former LSU golfers John Peterson (71-67—138), Ken Looper (73-66—139) and David Toms (72-68—140), and 14-year-old Chinese phenom Guan Tianlang (72-69—141).
Glover and Weekley shared second place going into the second round after opening with 65s. They started one stroke behind Ricky Barnes, who ballooned to a 76 after tying the course record with a 64 on Thursday.
Glover isn’t surprised his swing has returned. What has him in the position he’s in is his putting, which is remarkable considering he came into the event ranked 169th on the PGA Tour with 30.06 putts per round.
After two trips around the TPC Louisiana layout, Glover has needed just 49 putts — including 24 on Friday morning — to take over the lead.
“I’ve been hitting it good for a couple of months and finally started making some putts,” said Glover, who has 17 birdies so far. “I made a few changes over the weekend. It was working at home, and then it worked Wednesday afternoon in the pro-am. It just kind of carried over to Thursday, making the short ones and making a few of the mid-range ones. Luckily, I hit it close a lot.”
It continued early Friday. Glover made birdie putts of 4 and 7 feet to start his round and, after a par, he dropped in two more birdies from 9 and 5 feet.
The putt that was most indicative of the changes he made last weekend, which included tweaking his setup and putting more weight on his left side, was the 7-footer on the par-5 second.
“I had a good bunker shot and then a tough read,” he said. “I had the break going one way and the (grain) going the other, and I made that one. It was all right — you know, a good feeling.”
Weekley was feeling it as well. He started his round on the back nine and got off to a good start with an eagle at the par-4 10th, where he used a 56-degree wedge to knock his second shot into the cup from 105 yards.
“I know I can hit the (56-degree) no more than 108 yards max,” Weekley said with a smile. “It was one of those shots that I knew I had the right club. I just had to make the perfect swing, and I made the perfect swing. I couldn’t tell it went in because there’s a bit of an upper lip in front of the green. I saw it bounce, and then I didn’t see it anymore. And the people in the background started hollering and whooping.”
He picked up another stroke at the tough par-3 17th hole when he sank a 27-foot birdie putt, and played 1-under on the front side to complete a 68 as the course continued to dry out and the greens got firmer after Wednesday’s heavy rain.
“When I read them right, I feel like I can make them,” Weekley said. “But that’s all of us out here. My speed’s been pretty good this week … I haven’t run the ball way by the hole or kept it way short.”
The conditions got a little tougher in the afternoon, when Points teed off, as the wind kicked up a little more. But like Glover, he credited his putting with helping him put together a 4-under 68 after a couple of practice sessions Wednesday and Thursday with his new putting coach, Brian White.
“My right hip was getting a little high at address,” Points said. “Also, I was trying to take the putter back with my hands and wrists, as opposed to picking it up and doing more with my arms.
“He said, ‘Oh, I see this. … I see that.’ After a couple of little tweaks, it’s right back on track again.”