NEW ORLEANS, May 2 (UPI) -- Scott Verplank established a 36-hole tournament scoring record under ideal weather conditions Friday, shooting a bogey-free, 9-under-par 63 for a three-shot lead over Brian Gay and Todd Barranger midway through the HP Classic.
It was the kind of day golfer's dream about, complete with sunny skies, little wind and perfect greens. Verplank took advantage, breaking the event's old 36-hole scoring mark by three strokes with a 16-under 128.
"This is as good a weather as you can have out here," he said. "I've played a lot of times where the wind was blowing a lot harder and the greens were firmer and the golf course was playing a lot more difficult."
Verplank has been coming to New Orleans for 22 years. Not because he plays so well at this event. He has ties in the area through his best friend from Oklahoma State, Tommy Moore.
Moore was the top junior player in the country as a 17 year old. He was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State from 1982-84 and Verplank's roommate. He played on the PGA Tour in 1990 and 1994, winning a Nike Tour event in between.
Eventually, Moore settled in New Orleans, where he worked as a club professional. He died of a rare blood disease two years ago and had an HP Classic-related scholarship named for him.
"His widow is still a real good friend of mine, so I had dinner with her last night, and that's always enjoyable to check on her and their son," Verplank said.
Verplank, a former U.S. Amateur champion who began his junior career in New Orleans, has not won on tour since claiming his fourth career title at the 2001 Canadian Open. He admits a victory here would be special.
"He was kind of my guide through college and we were roommates and good buddies, and he had a pretty big influence on my life," Verplank said.
Verplank had nine birdies Friday at the English Turn Golf & Country Club. He started on the back nine, playing Nos. 11-17 in in 5-under and Nos. 2-9 in 4-under. Among his birdies were putts of 20 feet and two from 15.
"It really was one of those deals with the hole kept getting in the way of my putts," he said.
Among others in contention is Davis Love III, who is seeking his second win in as many starts and tour-best fourth of the season. He shared fourth at 12-under 132.
Love, whose world ranking has jumped to No. 3, credited his fast starts for his success this season. Of his three wins, he started with a sub-par round at two of them and built momentum off it.
"I'm not waiting to see what happens, so I think I'm a little more prepared, and obviously, it's working," said Love, who won here in 1995. "I'm swinging good and putting good every week."