It might be the undercard in terms of who comprises the field, but the Career Builder Challenge got off to a roaring start on Thursday, with four players, including a former Major champion, tied for the lead at 8-under.
India’s Anirban Lahiri shot one of those 64s, with the others coming from Americans Jeff Overton, Jerry Kelly, and 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner.
Despite losing 45 pounds since his victory in 2013, Dufner’s game has struggled. He played just 17 events in 2014 and finished in the top 10 only four times. In 2015, he announced he and his wife were getting a divorce, and played 21 events, with only two top 10 finishes.
He’s been much better to date in 2016, with back-to-back ninth place finishes at the RSM Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii, shooting 69 or lower in seven of his last eight rounds leading into Thursday.
Dufner played a flawless round on Thursday, bunching eight birdies together between holes 4 and 16, and never shooting a bogey.
Overton set the pace early with five straight birdies between holes 3 and 7 before bogeying No. 8. The 32-year-old is after his first PGA win.
Like Dufner, Lahiri did not have a bogey the entire round. He broke out for two wins on the European Tour last February, but has never won on the PGA circuit.
Kelly is after the fourth win of his PGA career, but his first since 2009. He recorded two eagles on the day, on No. 6 and No. 11.
In an extremely crowded field, 68 players are within five strokes of the lead and 108 of 156 are at least one stroke under par.
Phil Mickelson, one of the biggest names in the field, shot a 4-under 68 to tie for 32nd, four strokes off the lead. Mickelson opted to play closer to home this year and his first action of 2016.
The previous year was quite lackluster for the five-time Major winner as he did not win a tournament and made just three top 10s in 19 events. His 2013 victory at The Open Championship is starting to look like a distant memory at this point.