IRVING, Texas — Standing over his ball in a swale behind the 18th green, Jason Dufner would have been content with a par and a spot in the big group tied for the lead in the Byron Nelson Championship.
Instead, Dufner had the lead to himself Friday after he chipped it in 37 feet for his fourth birdie in five holes.
“No, that wasn’t in the thought process,” Dufner said. “Pretty lucky for it to go in, but that’s part of golf. Sometimes you get those breaks.”
His second long chip-in wrapped up his 4-under-par 66 for a two-round total of 7-under 133. That put Dufner a stroke ahead of a group of six players that included Matt Kuchar, the world’s fifth-ranked player who won The Players Championship last week.
Dufner got married the week after his first PGA Tour victory at New Orleans in April, and returned to play last week.
He has the 36-hole lead for the fourth time this season, including the Masters Tournament, and the seventh time in his career. The experience of having a victory can provide a different mind-set while leading at the halfway point again.
“Maybe a little bit,” he said. “I’m confident with my game and happy with where my game is right now.”
Kuchar shot 68 to join first-round leader Ryan Palmer (70), Chad Campbell (66), Pat Perez (67), Dickey Pride (68) and Marc Leishman (69) at 6-under.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley (68), who last summer won the PGA Championship three months after becoming a first-time winner in a Nelson playoff against Palmer, was two strokes behind the leaders along with former Georgia golfer Ryuji Imada (68) and Charley Hoffman (69).
The only other top 10 player in the field is Phil Mickelson, who had 69 with a double bogey.
“I hit it terrible today, there was no other way around it,” Mickelson said. “I’ve just got some mechanical issues where I was not striking the ball very solid. I was able to hit decent shots on the backside to make birdies and make a run, but that last hole stunk.”