(Reuters) - American journeyman Brian Stuard took advantage of rain-softened conditions with a red-hot putter to charge into an early one-shot lead in the weather-hit opening round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday.
Seeking his first PGA Tour victory, Stuard had just 21 putts as he fired a flawless eight-under-par 64 at the TPC Louisiana, finishing a stroke in front of veteran South African Retief Goosen.
Australian Geoff Ogilvy and Americans J.J. Henry, Derek Ernst, Patrick Rodgers and Charles Howell III carded 67s on a day when half the field did not complete the opening round after almost five hours of play was wiped out by heavy thunderstorms.
“It was just one of those days where it seemed like I was really reading the putts well and luckily they were going in,” Stuard told Golf Channel, before saying he had benefited from a putter he picked up only last week in San Antonio.
“I had a good feel for it, I putted well with it last week and it continued over today,” said the 33-year-old, who has twice been a runner-up on the PGA Tour but has mainly struggled on the U.S. circuit this season.
“I feel it’s getting closer,” Stuard said of his form. “I’ve been working hard at it and just needed to see some results, and today it was a good one.”
Australian world number one Jason Day raced to the turn in five-under 31 but dropped four shots on his back nine on the way to a 69, bogeying his last two holes after play had resumed following the lengthy weather suspension.
”A little frustrated,“ Day said of his bogey-bogey finish, ”but I‘m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve just got to manage myself out there.
“Obviously this is going to be a bit of a tough week with the stop-and-start rounds. I might be able to sneak in nine holes tomorrow and then play 27 on Saturday. You’ve just got to try and stay positive and keep moving forward.”
England’s world number 10 Justin Rose, who clinched last year’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans by one shot, was among the late starters on Thursday who will have to complete the opening round on Friday.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both