By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — During a week off from the PGA Tour, Luke Guthrie spent a little time in Quincy and a majority of his time in Champaign.
That was a prudent move.
Guthrie picked up a putting tip from his former college coach that's been on display this week at the Honda Classic. Friday, Guthrie needed just 26 putts to manage the PGA National Champion Course, carding a 7-under 63 and grabbing the 36-hole lead with a 9-under total.
He owns a one-stroke lead over Michael Thompson, and the two Web.com Tour graduates will be together in the final pairing Saturday.
"I'm pumped for it," Guthrie said. "I don't think I've got to the final group yet. I can't wait for that. ... I like playing in front of people, making birdies. They can kind of get you going, get the momentum rolling."
A hot putter sustained that.
Guthrie admittedly didn't putt poorly in his first six tournaments, but he was struggling to consistently make anything outside the 5-foot range. On the advice of Illinois coach Mike Small, Guthrie shifted his hands slightly and it's led to more one-putts than two-putts this week.
That's a pretty keen result for a 10-minute consultation.
"He was just like, ‘Yep, you're doing this, this. Fix that,'" Guthrie said. "I started rolling it better, and it got easier. It was really difficult to start my ball online. It's about just making the game a little easier right now, and it seems the balls were going in today. I'm just looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."
Guthrie's 7-under 63 marks his lowest round on the PGA Tour, and according to PGATour.com, it is the third lowest score in a professional round at the PGA National Champion Course. The two scores better are a 61 by Brian Harman and a 62 by Tiger Woods.
The impressive part of Guthrie's round is it came without any hiccups. He had seven birdies and no bogeys and took advantage of a par-5 once again. He birdied the par-5 third hole, narrowly missing an eagle by an inch or two.
Guthrie came into this event ranked first on the PGA Tour in percentage of birdies or better on par-5s. Through 20 rounds, he had birdied or eagled 69 percent of the par-5s. Through two rounds, he's 1 for 4 on par-5s.
However, Guthrie has picked up birdies on three par-3s and is hitting 78 percent of greens in regulation.
He was able to do that by keeping the ball in the fairway off the tee.
"This rough is pretty gnarly around here," Guthrie said. "It's the same story it's going to be all week. Put the ball in the fairway or else you're not going to have much of a chance around here."