(Reuters) – Jason Dufner emerged from hibernation to take the second-round lead at the Wells Fargo Championship on Friday, while Rory McIlroy stumbled in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner whose recent form has been woeful, never looked back after pitching in from 35 yards for birdie at the first hole at Quail Hollow.
He added a 40-foot birdie putt at the penultimate hole en route to an eight-under-par 63 that matched his career-low round on the PGA Tour.
“I played what I would consider the scorable holes really well, and then I threw in some others,” the 42-year-old told PGA Tour Radio.
“That’s what happens on a day when you get in the low 60s. Everything kind of meshed together.”
With an 11-under 131 halfway total, Dufner headed fellow Americans Max Homa (63) and Joel Dahmen (66) by one stroke.
The three frontrunners all played in the more benign morning conditions and ended the day well clear of the pack.
Northern Irishman McIlroy (70) and American Patrick Reed (69) were next, five shots behind Dufner in a tie for fourth.
Defending champion Jason Day (69) and world number two Justin Rose (67) were among a group lurking six shots off the pace.
On Thursday, McIlroy spoke about how he got the most out of his round with a 66 despite not playing at his best.
It was the reverse on Friday, as the two-times champion at Quail Hollow played quite well for most of the day but could not close out a good score.
He remained near the lead until he messed up the easy par-four eighth, his 17th, where his tee shot found a bunker, from where he took five more strokes to negotiate the final 55 yards.
He also bogeyed his final hole.
Leader Dufner, unhappy with the state of his stagnant career, changed pretty much everything at the end of last season, including his instructor, swing, equipment and caddie.
However, it has taken a while for him to reap any benefit.
He has not had a top-60 finish all year, and has slipped to 230th in the world rankings. However, he now hopes things are finally turning in the right direction.
“I’m just settling in to playing some better golf,” said the five-times PGA Tour winner.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)