April 24 (Reuters) – American Hudson Swafford, who has benefited from a change to his putting stroke over the past month, surged into an early one-shot lead in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans second round on Friday.
The 27-year-old, bidding for his first victory on the PGA Tour after competing as a rookie last season, took advantage of ideal scoring conditions on a rain-softened layout at the TPC Louisiana as he fired a flawless six-under-par 66.
Swafford recorded three birdies on each nine to post an 11-under total of 133, finishing a stroke in front of compatriot Cameron Tringale (65) and Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge (70).
Another American, Chad Campbell, was at nine under after carding a 68.
Swafford, who has recorded just one top-10 in 16 starts on the 2014-15 PGA Tour, was delighted to maintain his improved form after struggling earlier this year.
“Nothing was really clicking for me so I kind of changed the takeaway with my golf swing, and actually my stroke with the putter,” Swafford, who missed six cuts in the first three months this year before tweaking his putting stroke, told Golf Channel.
“I’ve been trying to bring it a little more inside and down the line. Ever since then, Bay Hill, it has kind of kicked in and I’ve really seen some good golf.”
Swafford revised his putting stroke in late March before the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill where he tied for 11th place.
Burly Zimbabwean de Jonge, who was tied for the lead overnight with American Boo Weekley after opening with a 64, carded three birdies and a lone bogey in the second round despite the receptive conditions.
“I’ve just got to stay aggressive,” said the 34-year-old, who is seeking his first PGA victory this week on his 225th career start.
“Obviously there’s going to be a bunch of birdies this weekend and the golf course isn’t going to be able to firm up. I am excited about it. I feel like my game is in good shape so hopefully keep it going.”
Weekley, a three-times winner on the PGA Tour, was among the late starters on Friday. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)