LA QUINTA, Calif. – A few observations following the second round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, where Jason Dufner leads by one over Jamie Lovemark at PGA West. For more on all of Friday's action, click here to read the Daily Wrap-Up.
1. Jason Dufner didn’t kick up his feet during the holiday break. Instead of easing into the new year, he wanted to be prepared when the PGA TOUR season resumed in January.
And he is.
Dufner holds the 36-hole lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation after shooting 64-65 at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament and TPC Stadium courses. The TPC Stadium Course, the hardest of the three courses in use this week, played to a 70.2 scoring average Friday.
Dufner has just one bogey through 36 holes. He shot a 6-under 30 on his opening nine holes Friday.
“In (the) past, I’ve just kind of rolled into the season and tried to get going as we started in January, but this year I worked really hard in November and December to be ready to play,” Dufner said. “I’m going to play a lot this year, so this is a good start.”
Dufner, who’s 30th in the FedExCup standings, finished T9 in his previous two starts, The RSM Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii. The RSM was played in November, while the Sony Open was last week. In between, Dufner paired with Brandt Snedeker to win last month’s Franklin Templeton Shootout.
Dufner is still seeking his first PGA TOUR victory since the 2013 PGA Championship. He qualified for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in 2009 and 2011-13, but has finished outside the top 85 in the FedExCup in each of the past two seasons while dealing with injuries and a divorce.
“I’ve been working hard on my golf game and the physical side of it, trying to stay healthy, and the mental side of it,” he said. “I feel good. I’m confident.”
He has good memories at the TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses at PGA West. He earned his PGA TOUR card at the 2008 Q-School here and qualified for his first TOUR Championship in that following season.
“I was pretty down on where I was at, golf-wise. I was struggling to stay out here,” he recalled. “I remember working really hard for about two months from the end of the season before we came out here. I probably played each (course) four or five times before that Q-School started. I played unbelievable.
“And to be honest with you, this is kind of where everything started for me, because then in 2009 I had a really nice season. That’s kind of when I started playing some really good golf.”
Jason Dufner interview after Round 2 of CareerBuilder Challenge
2. Jamie Lovemark’s birthday is on Saturday. He’ll celebrate by being in contention for his first PGA TOUR victory.
Lovemark, who will turn 28, is a shot behind Dufner after shooting 65-65 at La Quinta Country Club and PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course. He’ll face the TPC Stadium Course on Saturday.
“Thanks a lot, Pete,” Lovemark joked, referring to architect Pete Dye. “It will be a good test. It’s a great course, very fair, very tough. The conditions are perfect for scoring, so we’re getting it as easy as we can.”
Like Dufner, Lovemark also has finished in the top-10 in his previous two tournaments. He finished T9 at The RSM Classic and T7 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
His 65 on Friday was his first round at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. He holed out from 105 yards for eagle at the first hole, his 10th of the day.
He is No. 23 in the FedExCup standings. Lovemark, who works with instructor Chris Como, ranks in the top 25 this week in driving distance (307.5 yards, 21st), driving accuracy (75 percent, T16) and greens in regulation (77.8 percent, T17).
3. Phil Mickelson is off to a good start in his new season with his new swing.
Mickelson shot 65 on Friday and is in eighth place, four shots behind Jason Dufner. Mickelson will play the TPC Stadium Course on Saturday.
“I had a good round where I was just patient and put a lot of shots in play and then gave myself a number of chances on the green,” Mickelson said.
This also is the first tournament since Mickelson began working with swing coach Andrew Getson. Mickelson is encouraged by his results thus far, but said there’s still a little refining to be done.
“I’m probably a week away, if I’m being honest,” he said. “But I’ve also won with a lot less game than I have right now. I still expect to get in contention and have a good weekend, but a lot of iron shots are 12, 15 feet off. I know that when I get it right I’ll have a lot more tap-in birdies throughout the round.”
Mickelson won the CareerBuilder in 2002 and 2004 but has finished no better than T24 in his past four appearances here.
4. Nick Taylor had quite the stretch to finish his round at the TPC Stadium Course.
He made bogey at the par-3 fourth hole, but holed a 10-foot putt for eagle at the fifth. Then he made a hole-in-one on the 223-yard, par-3 sixth hole. He followed his back-to-back eagles by making double-bogey at No. 7. He added another birdie at the par-5 eighth hole before making par on No. 9.
It all added up to a 3-under 69 at the TPC Stadium Course. He’s tied for 70th at 5-under 139.
Taylor wasn’t the only player to make an ace Friday. Robert Allenby made one at the Nicklaus Tournament Course’s 165-yard 12th hole. It was the 10th of his career, tying him with Hal Sutton for the most in PGA TOUR history. Amateur Jay Pumphrey got in on the action as well, making an ace at the par-3 13th at the TPC Stadium course.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Nick Taylor’s fantastic hole-in-one is the Shot of the Day
CALL OF THE DAY
Jason Dufner opens with a birdie on No. 1 at CareerBuilderFree play-by-play coverage of the third round streams from 2-7 p.m. ET Saturday on PGATOUR.COM.
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Jason Dufner has 7 birdies through 12 holes: • 14 ft • 4 ft • 16 ft • 10 ft • 5 ft • 5 ft • 11 ft He leads by 2. pic.twitter.com/ShNptHY6NU— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 22, 2016