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David Hearn knew at some point the questions would come.

Since the USGA and R&A implemented a ban on the anchored putting style in 2016, Hearn has been constantly tweaking his technique, trying to regain the form that had him among the top putters on the PGA Tour.

So after his second round Friday, Hearn wasn't surprised when he was called aside by a rules official and taken by cart to the putting green by the No. 1 tee to demonstrate the putting stroke that catapulted him up the leaderboard.

It's the first time this season Hearn has had to jump through these certain hoops, a side effect of shooting a 7-under 64 Friday at TPC Deere Run and heading into the weekend of the John Deere Classic tied for second at 12-under par.

"I guess I'm putting too well," Hearn said. "I had expected this probably, that when I played well that this might happen. So that's fine.

"I can say with 100 percent certainty that there hasn't been a single putt that I've anchored since the anchoring ban came into effect two-and-a-half years ago."

The rules official agreed, and Hearn heads into the weekend in good position to once again contend for his first PGA Tour win.

It's familiar territory for Hearn at TPC Deere Run.

He had a chance to grab that elusive victory in 2013, but it was his putter that betrayed him.

Locked in a playoff with Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson, Hearn had a 4-foot, 10-inch putt for birdie on No. 17, the fourth hole of the playoff, that would have sealed the win.

The putt lipped out, and Spieth won on the next hole, the start of a meteoric rise that included winning three majors and another JDC in 2015.

"I hit the putt where I wanted and it lipped out. That's golf, right? Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't." Hearn said. "That was a good moment in my career. I came close to getting a win, and I was real proud of the way I played that week."

Hearn ranked among the top 15 in strokes gained putting that year, part of a run of five straight seasons in which he was among the top 50 in that category.

But following the anchor ban, Hearn has struggled to regain that same form, finishing 120th on Tour last year and entered this week 168th.

As a result he'd only made eight cuts in the 16 previous tournaments and has just one top 10 finish this season.

He experimented with different putting techniques, trying an arm-lock putter for two years before shortening his Odyssey putter by about an inch-and-a-half and going back to a more conventional long putter grip technique.

This week it's paid off. Hearn ranks fifth and made 113 feet of putts Friday after making more than 117 feet on Thursday.

"It has taken me time to get better at it, but there is no reason that I can't be even 95 or 99 percent as good as I used to be with it not attached to my body," Hearn said. "I don't really want to think about it too much. Just sort of keep pointing and shooting and hopefully they go in."

Hearn was aided Friday by premium ball-striking, missing just one green all day on the tough ninth hole, the only bogey of the day.

"Soft greens around here and you have to stay aggressive, especially wen you get some of the short irons in," he said. "Definitely feeling good over the ball and making good swings as well."


Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times