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Barnes' 64 sets early Zurich Classic pace

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AVONDALE, La. – Ricky Barnes didn’t arrive on-site at TPC Louisiana until 6 p.m. local time Wednesday, a risky move for a player who has never made a cut here, who has failed to make it to Sunday in eight of his last nine starts, and who has broken 70 just once since Jan. 20.

No matter.

On Thursday, he ran off six birdies in his last eight holes for his low round of the year, an 8-under 64 that set the early pace at the Zurich Classic.

Why the late arrival here?

Turns out Barnes was at home in Arizona for the birth of his second child, Natalie, on Monday. When he finally arrived at TPC Louisiana on Wednesday, he worked on his short game for an hour before grabbing a quick dinner and retiring to his hotel for his 7 a.m. start.

“Let’s just say I’m waiting for this to get over to go back to the hotel and sleep,” he said, smiling.

After back-to-back top 20s to start the season, Barnes’ best finish since has been a 69th in Houston. Last week he missed the 54-hole cut.

“I just wasn’t comfortable with my swing,” he said. “I wasn’t putting or chipping very good. Doubt was creeping into my mind a little bit.”

So he changed things up.

In the past two months, he has seen his longtime coach, Dean Reinmuth, more often, working to shallow out his swing.

Six weeks ago he began working with a sports psychologist, Neale Smith.

And he implemented a bizarre routine on the greens. During his practice strokes, Barnes practices left-hand low, but then switches to the claw grip for the actual putt.

Well, unless it’s a longer putt. Then he remains cross-handed.

How does he know which stroke to use?

“It’s a feel thing,” he explained.

It all came together Thursday during his 64, which tied the course record. Barnes missed only three greens – and needed to chip just once – and shot a blistering 30 on the back nine.

“You’re just working on so many things that you’re doubting what you’re working on,” he said. “It’s not doubting that you’re a good player and you can compete out here. But you kind of doubt yourself, like, am I doing the right things? Am I putting in enough time?

“In the past month I’ve seen a lot of good signs. And today was nice because it was a pretty stress-free round.”