It seems to have worked.
Hughes fired an 8-under-par 63 to take a three-shot lead at 11-under-par over David Sutherland, who posted a Friday 66. Seven others, including last week's winner David Duval, are four shots back at 7-under.
Hughes got off to a good start in 2000. He collected three top-15s in his first five events, including a tie for 5th at the Nissan Open. Then things fell apart.
Leading up to the Westin Texas Open two weeks ago, the 33-year-old Australian had missed the cut in 16 of his previous 22 starts. Once again, Hughes missed the cut in San Antonio, but not all was lost. After opening in 78, Hughes switched from a wound ball to a two-piece. He shot a Friday 70, not good enough to qualify for weekend play, but certainly a big step in the right direction.
'I've been playing a wound ball for a long time,' said Hughes, who is currently 126th on the money list. 'I have changed clubs and my swing, and my hairstyle, done everything, nothing was working. So I just thought I'd try something different and it's really helped.'
Last week, using his new ball, Hughes shot rounds of 73-68-68-73 to tie for 32nd at the Buick Challenge. It was his best finish since the Nissan Open in February.
Through two rounds in Williamsburg, Va., Hughes has carded back-to-back rounds in the 60s for just the third time in his last 25 starts. In fact, his second-round 63 is his lowest aggregate score ever on the PGA Tour.
'When I first came out on Tour, I was one of the longest hitters and this year I was like 111th going into last week in distance,' Hughes said. 'My confidence got down because I didn't know whether to take an extra club and then I'd ease it and mess it up.
'With the two-piece, I am hitting (my irons) 10, 15 yards longer with each club for no apparent reason except for a different ball.'
In case you're wondering, Hughes switched from a Titleist to a Nike golf ball.
'Good enough for Tiger, good enough for me,' said Hughes, a five-time winner in Australia. 'I knew if I didn't (make the change) I might not have a contract anyway next year because I wasn't going to keep my card. So I had no choice really. It was nothing against (Titleist.) It was just something I needed to do.'
No need for Duval to change balls. His Titleist seems to be working just fine. After opening in 70, Duval carded a 6-under-par 65 at the Kingsmill Resort.
'I played noticeably better today, although I don't feel like I played my best today,' said Duval, who won this event in 1997. 'I did a very, very good job of capitalizing when I did hit some good shots, so all and all - very successful.'
At 7-under-par, Duval is tied with Loren Roberts, Tommy Armour III, Steve Pate, J.P. Hayes, Michael Bradley and Tom Scherrer.
Hayes led after a first-round 66, but a second-round 69 has him now four off the pace. Scherrer shot 64 on Friday, but it could have been better. This year's Kemper Insurance Open champion was 9-under-par before bogeying the 17th and 18th holes.
Bradley also made his way to 9-under-par in the second round, but a double-bogey at the par-4 9th, his 18th, dropped him into the pursuing pack.
Defending champion Notah Begay III did not make the cut. Begay shot rounds of 77-71 for a 5-over-par total.