AVONDALE, La. (AP) — You never know what you might see in the swamps just south of New Orleans.
Take first-time PGA Tour winners, for example.
There have been four in the past five PGA events held in the Big Easy. And a virtual no-name entered Friday’s second round of the Zurich Classic with a two-shot lead after setting a course record at the TPC Louisiana.
Kyle Reifers shot an 8-under 64 on the 7,341-yard course. And when the 23-year-old walked from the 18th hole past the clubhouse, his record in the books, not a single fan waited by the ropes to ask for his autograph.
Not many people had heard of Reifers, and he could even hear people in the gallery mispronouncing his name (It’s RYE-furs, for future reference).
A much more seasoned challenger, 1989 British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia, was in second.
“I can see the greens pretty well, and it’s a good course for me,” the lumbering Calcavecchia said. “I really like this track.”
Tim Petrovic, who won the only other PGA Tour event held on this course in 2005, finished his opening round in a four-way tie at 67, along with Lucas Glover, Jason Schultz and Tom Johnson.
Reifers, 23, emerged from the scoring tent having no idea he had just broken the course record of 65, set in 2005 by Chris DiMarco and Arjun Atwal.
“It doesn’t really mean much to me right now,” said the freckle-faced rookie, his red hair curling out of the sides and back of his baseball cap. “At the end of the week, hopefully it will mean a lot.”
The Wake Forest graduate finished second in the 2006 NCAA championship, then turned pro immediately, winning a Tar Heel Tour event in Charlotte, N.C., the next week. One week after that, he won his first Nationwide Tour event at Chattanooga, Tenn., where he also set a course record with a 61 on the final round and sank a 15-foot putt to win in a playoff hole.
He hasn’t won since, though, and he barely emerged from last year’s PGA Tour qualifying tournament with his tour card for 2007, making an 18-foot putt in the final stage to tie for 29th. No one who finished worse qualified for this year’s tour.
This year, he has entered six prior events, making the cut in three of them and cracking the top 25 only once, when he tied for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando a month ago.
Chris Couch, who won last year’s Zurich Classic, entered the second round eight shots back. Couch won at English Turn, which was supposed to have seen its last event in 2004, but had to host it once again after Hurricane Katrina blew down about 2,000 trees and swamped several fairways at the TPC Louisiana, which closed for 10 months after the storm.
After about $2 million in repairs to about 30 acres of turf and the planting of about 300 trees, the TPC Louisiana reopened last July and now is hosting its second event.
It is a distinctive, Pete Dye-designed course carved out of a cypress swamp a few miles southwest of New Orleans. It’s loaded with fairway obstacles that include steep “pot” bunkers, isolated trees hanging over the edges of fairways and water hazards.
Reifers saw it for the first time in the one practice round he played before Thursday’s first round, when he had eight birdies and no bogeys.
He birdied three of the course’s four par 5s.
“I played them a little more conservatively but played my angles a lot better and gave myself a lot of good looks,” Reifers said. “I can kind of feel my game coming around.”
Divots: Boo Weekley, a first-time winner Monday in Hilton Head, S.C., said he was tired after a spike in media appearances this week – and it showed. His double-bogey on the 18th hole concluded a round of 5-over-par that had the affable, tobacco-chewing Southerner saying, “I need a hug,” to a course marshal he recognized on the 17th tee. … Several players wore maroon Virginia Tech caps in a show of solidarity with the university reeling from the murder of 32 people earlier this week. Johnson Wagner, who shot a 73, was among them. Having graduated from Tech, he also wore a bright orange Virginia Tech shirt, a school pin and had the university’s trademark “VT” sewn onto his golf bag. Charley Hoffman, who was in the top 10 at 68, had no connection to Virginia Tech but wore the hat nonetheless. “Obviously I don’t know anybody there being from the West Coast, but just to show support to them all of the country I think is needed.” … David Toms, a past winner in New Orleans and a Louisiana native who is popular with the local crowd, was among more than a dozen players tied for 14th at 3-under. “I just had a good, solid day, nothing fantastic, and I’m right in the tournament,” Toms said.