BY TERESA M. WALKER
The Associated Press
MEMPHIS – John Huston made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole Friday and joined PGA Tour rookie Richard S. Johnson as a co-leader after the second round of the St. Jude Classic.
Huston turned in his best round of the year as he had an eagle and six birdies in a bogey-free round for an 8-under 63 and 130 total.
“I played extremely well today,” Huston said. “Drove the ball really well, so I gave myself a lot of good chances and chipped in one time, made one from the bunker. Everything went pretty much pretty well.”
Johnson, who had a 66 Friday, had shared a one-stroke lead after the first round with Jay Haas and Darron Stiles. Johnson had a longer day, having to play 25 holes to wrap up the first round, which had been suspended by rain Thursday night.
The native of Sweden left the European Tour and earned his PGA card by finishing 11th at the qualifying tournament last year.
“There's a long way left. We're only halfway there,” he said. “I'm really happy to be on top for the moment. If I can continue playing like I've done, I'm feeling pretty confident this is going to go pretty good.”
David Peoples (66) was at 131 with Fredrik Jacobson (67) and David Gossett (67) at 133. Haas, who had seven straight birdies Thursday, shot a 70 Friday and was tied with Lee Janzen (66) and Kirk Triplett (67) at 134.
Stiles shot a 74 and was eight strokes off the lead in the tournament sponsored by FedEx. A total of 78 players made the cut at 1-under.
Huston has won six times on the PGA Tour but not since 2000 at the Tampa Bay Classic. He came into this tournament having played only twice since the Houston Open in April, tying for 18th at Memorial and 28th at the FBR Capital Open. He finished second at the Phoenix Open in January.
Huston said lack of consistency with his driver has been his problem this year.
“When I drive the ball well, I seem to be playing really well,” Huston said.
Huston hit the fairway 10 out of 14 times Friday as he started in the afternoon on a nearly perfect summer day with temperatures around 80 and gusting wind the only problem.
On No. 3, a 525-yard par-5, he hit a 4-wood left of the green and chipped in for eagle from 60 feet.
He had another eagle opportunity on the par-5, 527-yard 5th when he hit a 4-iron to 12 feet but two-putted for birdie. Huston birdied the next two par-3s as he hit an 8-iron to 4 feet on 8 and to 15 feet on 11. He hit a pitching wedge a foot from the hole for birdie on 16 and closed with a birdie.
“Hopefully, I can keep playing the way I did today,” Huston said.
Johnson birdied two of his final three holes in the morning to go to 7-under and take a share of the first-round lead. He had no time to enjoy being atop the leaderboard as he immediately started his second round.
He was a model of consistency with 14 pars along with an eagle and three birdies. He parred his first five holes, then hit a 7-iron to 10 feet and made the birdie putt on the par-4 6th. Eight more pars followed before he put a 7-iron to 9 feet on the par-4 15th and rolled in the birdie putt.
That got him started as he hit a 3-wood to 6 feet on the par-5 16th and made the eagle putt. He made a birdie on the par-4 17th after sticking a 4-iron from 225 feet within 10 feet.
“I kept it together, and I stayed patient and I got rewarded,” Johnson said. “It's such a fine line. It's one of those round I shot 4-, 5-under today and in the end, you can go the opposite way. You stay patient but make one mistake and you shoot even.”
Divots: Peoples had a hole-in-one on No. 8 as he hit an 8-iron from 174 yards. … Joel Kribel also had a hole-in-one on the par-3 island green at No. 11. He hit an 8-iron 182 yards. … Ty Tryon had best front nine Friday with a 29, but he finished with a 71 and missed the cut at 146. … David Frost was disqualified when he didn't show up Friday morning for the restart of the first round. He had been 6-over through his first nine holes.