After missing three consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour in March, Boo Weekley knew he needed to shake up his game a little bit.
So he went to a new driver last week, which at least helped him make the cut at the RBC Heritage even though he tied for 75th, and Wednesday got some new shafts for his irons.
The results were evident in the Wednesday pro-am at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and in the first round of the $6.9 million tournament.
Taking advantage of an early tee time and near-perfect conditions Thursday morning, Weekley posted an 8-under par 64 to take the early lead at TPC Louisiana before Brendon de Jonge matched it about six hours later.
“I’ve just been missing something in my game, and it was because I haven’t been able to control my irons,” Weekley said. “I was stressed out a lot just trying to figure out what’s going on with my clubs.
“So my coach and caddie, we all talked to the True Temper guys, and they got it worked out. We figured something out, we think.”
It’s safe to say it worked out Thursday.
He had seven birdies and an eagle, which came at the par 5 second hole, to go with one bogey while contending with little wind. Because of anticipated rain in the afternoon, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their ball in the fairway.
It was the 41-year-old Weekley’s lowest opening round since firing a 64 in the 2012 McGladrey Classic.
He wasn’t the only player to go low on the opening day of the tournament, which was suspended for 78 minutes because of rain just after 2 p.m.
As a result, the first round could not be completed before darkness fell with 12 players on the course. They’ll complete their round at 8 a.m., but PGA Tour officials said the second round will begin as scheduled at 7 a.m.
De Jonge, who began his day on the back nine, put together a bogey-free round that was highlighted by three consecutive birdies starting at the par 4 fourth hole after he shot a 4-under 32 on the back side.
After tying Weekley with a birdie at No. 6, de Jonge came home with three consecutive pars to finish with a 64 as well.
David Hearn and Sean O’Hair, who started his round with an eagle 2 at the par 4 first hole, were tied for third with 7-under 65s. Five more players — including Erik Compton, Mark Hubbard, Daniel Berger, Brian Davis and Greg Owen — were another shot back after shooting 66s.
Two of the world’s top seven players — No. 6 Jason Day and No. 7 Dustin Johnson — were among a group of 12 players at 67.
They were among the many players who splashed red numbers all over the leaderboard in the first round.
Including Weekley, 14 players shot 5-under or better in the morning wave and 48 golfers in all were in red numbers at the par 72, 7,245-yard layout. Counting the afternoon wave, 89 of the 144 players who completed the first round shot under par.
The key for Weekley was hitting the green which, he said, has always been one of the strengths of his game — until this season. On Thursday, he was in the fairway on 11 of 14 driving holes and wound up hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation.
“I’ve always been, I feel like, a top-15 player in the world when it comes to iron play and hitting (approach) shots,” he said. “I’ve always hit a lot of greens, but if you look at my stats this year, it’s not very good.”
He led the PGA Tour in that category in 2011 and has been in the top 20 each of the last five seasons, but ranked 102nd going into this tournament at 65.4 percent.
That certainly contributed to his scoring average of 73.8 strokes for his last 10 rounds, which was a factor in him missing three consecutive cuts before last week.
Despite his good play, Weekley wasn’t about to get ahead of himself.
“You can’t win a tournament today,” he said with a wide smile. “I mean, it’s just another round of golf. I’m grateful I shot 8-under, but if it had been a 4-under, I’d still be just as grateful.”
De Jonge was grateful, too, after equaling his lowest score of the season. He carded a 64 in the second round of the McGladrey Classic, but went on to lose in a playoff.
“Yeah, I’m very pleased,” de Jonge said. “Obviously, we had perfect scoring conditions and we got to place the ball (in the fairway), but I played nicely.
“The conditions were absolutely ideal before the delay and then, obviously, it was a little muddy after that rain came through. But still, the course was there for the taking.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.