(Reuters) - Boo Weekley, seeking his first PGA Tour victory in two years, took advantage of rain-softened conditions to charge into an early one-shot lead in the opening round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday.
With a few family members spurring him on, the 41-year-old American birdied four of his last eight holes to card an eight-under-par 64 at the TPC Louisiana, finishing a stroke in front of Canada’s David Hearn.
Americans Daniel Berger, Mark Hubbard and Erik Compton, and England’s Brian Davis, were a further shot back after opening with 66s while Australian world number six Jason Day was among a group of players bunched on 67.
Weekley, a three-times winner on the PGA Tour who lives in nearby Florida, piled up an eagle, seven birdies and a lone bogey at a venue softened by more than nine inches of rainfall last week.
“I just like the way the layout is,” Weekley told Golf Channel. “We’re back on Bermuda grass and it’s close to home. And the temperature man, I love the heat. It’s a great place to come and play.
“The fans are awesome and they get behind you. With it being close to the house like this, I’ve got a lot of family members that come over and that kind of helps you out a little bit, gives you a little bit of a confidence boost.”
Weekley also benefited from a new set of irons that worked well for him in Wednesday’s pro-am competition.
“I played good in the pro-am, the first time in a while that I actually felt like I could hit my shots, hit my numbers and control the trajectory of the ball,” he said. “It felt good to be able to come out today and play, and make some putts.”
Australian Day, the highest-ranked player in this week’s field, relished playing in the company of world number seven Dustin Johnson and his fellow American Ben Crane, who also carded 67s.
“I made a great start, birdying the first hole, and everyone kind of followed suit after that,” said Day. “The course is very receptive, it’s very gettable. It was good to be a part of a group with DJ and Ben Crane. We had a lot of fun out there.”
South Korea’s Noh Seung-yul, who won last year’s title by two shots, was among the late starters.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue