LA QUINTA, Calif. – A few observations following Round 3 of the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, where Jason Dufner leads by two over Jamie Lovemark heading into the final round at PGA West's TPC Stadium Course. For more on all of Saturday's action, click here to read the Daily Wrap-up.
1. Jason Dufner called it.
The three-time PGA TOUR champ started the third round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation with a one-shot lead, but shot just 1-under par on his front nine at La Quinta Country Club. Players need to shoot lower than that to keep pace in the California desert.
“I told my caddie and my amateur partners, ‘I’m about to do something good,’” Dufner said. “When you start thinking like that, good things happen.”
He made seven birdies on his back nine to shoot 64 and take a two-shot lead into Sunday. He is at 23-under 193 (64-65-64), while Jamie Lovemark sits in second place at 21 under after shooting a third consecutive 65.
Dufner’s 54-hole total is the lowest of his career by two shots. He set his previous mark at the 2009 CareerBuilder Challenge and 2012 Colonial National Invitational.
Dufner is seeking his first victory since the 2013 PGA Championship. He teamed with Brandt Snedeker to win the unofficial Franklin Templeton Shootout last month, and finished in the top 10 in his two starts prior to CareerBuilder.
“I’m playing good, I’m not having any trouble, I feel relaxed out there,” Dufner said. He’s made just three bogeys in three rounds. After 54 holes, he’s missed just 11 fairways and 11 greens this week, ranking 12th in driving accuracy and eighth in greens in regulation.
He’s 30th in the FedExCup this season after finishing T9 in The RSM Classic and Sony Open in Hawaii. Dufner said he didn’t relax during the TOUR’s holiday break. He wanted to be ready for the season’s resumption in January instead of easing back into the season.
“I’m out here to win tournaments. It doesn’t matter when I won them or when the last time was, I’m showing up to win tournaments this year and play good golf every week,” Dufner said.
Jason Dufner leads the way by two at CareerBuilder Challenge
2. Jamie Lovemark has an opportunity to win his first PGA TOUR title on Sunday. He’ll have dinner with President Bill Clinton before that, though. Lovemark and his fiancée are among a handful of couples who are dining with the former President on the eve of the final round.
Lovemark has been in proximity to the President before. He said he played behind him at Coronado Golf Club near San Diego when President Clinton played there in the 1990s.
More importantly, the 2007 NCAA champion’s career appears to be back on track.
Lovemark finished runner-up in his fourth event as a pro, the 2009 Frys.com Open. He didn’t have another top-10 on the PGA TOUR until this season, though. Lovemark, who turned 28 on Saturday, now has an opportunity to win his first TOUR event.
“I know winning is winning. I won some decent events throughout my life. I feel comfortable right now,” said Lovemark, who will play in Sunday’s final group with Dufner and Adam Hadwin.
As a freshman at USC in 2007, Lovemark won the NCAA Championship and was the recipient of the Fred Haskins Award as college golf’s top player. He turned pro in 2009 and found quick success at that year's Frys.com Open, where he played his way into a three-way playoff with fellow first-year pro Rickie Fowler and Troy Matteson, who eventually won the playoff. Lovemark was the Web.com Tour Player of the Year the following year, and has won twice on that circuit.
He suffered a back injury and struggled with his swing over the next few years, but has begun to see success under the tutelage of instructor Chris Como. Lovemark has finished in the top 10 in his previous two starts (T9, The RSM Classic; T7, Sony Open in Hawaii) and is No. 23 in the FedExCup.
3. Kevin Na has been in contention several times already this season. He’s right there again at the CareerBuilder Challenge after making a late sprint up the leaderboard Saturday.
Na was 8 under on his final seven holes at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course. He moved up 30 spots on the leaderboard after shooting 62 on Saturday and will start Sunday in a tie for fifth at 17-under 199.
David Lingmerth matched Na’s 62 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course and is in fourth place, one shot closer to Dufner. This is Lingmerth’s second 62 in four appearances at this event. He shot a final-round 62 at PGA West’s Palmer Private Course to finish second in 2013.
Na didn’t have to make long putts to shoot 8-under 28 over his final nine holes, the front nine at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. He kept hitting the ball close to the hole. Four of his birdie putts were within a foot of the hole.
He hit his approach shot to 1 foot at No. 3, then chipped it close at the par-5 fourth hole. His approach came to rest a few inches from the hole at No. 5 and made a 15-foot putt at the following hole. He hit 3-wood to 8 feet to make eagle at No. 7 and hit his tee shot at the par-3 eighth hole within a foot of the hole. He capped the run with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 9.
“It was one of those stretches that I just caught fire,” Na said. He is No. 7 in the FedExCup thanks to consecutive top-three finishes at the Frys.com Open, where he lost a playoff to Emiliano Grillo, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T2) and CIMB Classic (T3).
4. Phil Mickelson shot a bogey-free 66 on Saturday and will start the final round in a tie for fifth place, six shots behind Dufner. This is his first tournament since he began working with instructor Andrew Getson after eight years with Butch Harmon.
Getson has helped the 42-time TOUR winner get his swing back on plane. Mickelson knew he’d varied from the proper path, but admitted he was surprised at how far his swing had strayed. “It’s been a lot more drastic process than I thought it would be,” he said.
“It was actually a lot of work for the last three months of video and drills. What I was feeling and what I was doing were so far apart that it took a real effort.”
Mickelson said his swing plane had become too flat in his backswing and too steep on the way down, forcing him to make compensations just before impact. That led to inconsistency and a constant searching. Mickelson, who turns 46 in June, is seeking his first victory since the 2013 Open Championship.
It feels fairly easy. It doesn’t feel like I’m fighting anything.
CALL OF THE DAY
Phil Mickelson’s thrilling chip-in birdie at CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Free play-by-play coverage of the final round streams from 2-7 p.m. ET Sunday on PGATOUR.COM
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Bryce Molder’s excellent eagle hole out is the Shot of the Day