(Reuters) – American journeyman Hudson Swafford, seeking his first PGA Tour title, continued to reap the benefits of hard work on his swing as he earned a one-shot lead after Friday’s second round of the $5.8 million CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California.
On a rare wet and cold day in the California desert, Swafford birdied three of the four par-fives to card a seven-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course, one of three venues hosting the pro-am event formerly called the Bob Hope Classic.
Swafford, who produced good form last week to tie for 13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, posted a 14-under total of 130, with first-round leader Dominic Bozzelli and New Zealand’s Danny Lee equal second on 13-under.
PGA Tour rookie Bozzelli, the only player in the field to go bogey-free after 36 holes, fired a 67 at La Quinta Country Club where South Korea-born Lee returned an eight-birdie 64.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, a perennial fan favorite at the tournament where he is the biggest name competing this week, ended the day four strokes off the pace after a 66 on the rain-softened Nicklaus layout.
Swafford, who has made the cut in all five of his starts on the 2016-17 PGA Tour but still languishes outside the top 200 on the world rankings, was delighted to maintain good form as he racked up seven birdies in a bogey-free display.
“I hit a lot of good quality iron shots, hit a lot of good putts … some that went in, some that lipped out,” he told Golf Channel. “Just gave myself a lot of chances.”
“I’ve kind of got my golf swing more up and down the plane, instead of a little laid off,” Swafford said of his recent work with swing coach Scott Hamilton. “Just really focusing on rhythm with everything I do.
“It’s really coming together. I’ve seen a lot of good iron shots and my tee ball has been really good, I haven’t really been in bad position off the tee … and the putter feels really good in my hands.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Andrew Both)