By Bill Dwyre
6:53 PM PST, January 17, 2014
For pro golfer Patrick Reed, Friday was Groundhog Day in the Southern California desert.
He woke up to blue skies, warm temperatures, minimal wind and greens as smooth as a puppy's tummy. Again. So he went out and shot 63. Again.
Reed, a 23-year-old Texan, leads the Humana Challenge by two shots. In most stops on the PGA tour, a 63-63 start that is 18 under par would have sent the rest of the guys off to call the airlines for early departure. After all, what's the use?
But in the desert, specifically the three La Quinta courses on which they play this storied event that once carried the name and fame of Bob Hope, birdies are the basics. Scoring conditions the first two days here have been perfect. And, as the PGA Tour ad says, these guys are good.
Thursday, when he played at the Palmer Private Course, , Reed's card included eight 3s and one 2. Friday, at La Quinta Country Club, he suffered through two 5s but cleaned things up with an eagle on the par-five fifth hole.
Still, with all that, he leads by only two. Brendon Todd followed his 65 on Thursday with a 63, and this annual exercise in par-busting remains its usual too-close-to-call. Ryan Palmer is another shot back at 15 under and Charley Hoffman, a former winner, one more at minus-14.
A total of 14 players were within seven shots of the lead, with the cut coming Saturday for Sunday's amateur-free final round.
Reed, who broke through with a victory last August at the Wyndham, but is hardly a household name on the tour, has already won $128,250 this season and spoke of this desert event like a seasoned veteran.
"It's a birdie-fest, this tournament is," he said. "It's always that way."
Actually, it wasn't for him last year. He missed the cut.
Todd was equally candid about the relative degree of difficulty at this event, which makes no apologies for the low scores it generates.
"I think the par-fives this week are probably the easiest on tour, throughout," Todd said. "This is the week, you just have to dominate them.
Among other highlights of the day was Keegan Bradley's hole in one on the third hole at the Nicklaus Private Course. He was playing with Zach Johnson, who hit before him and hit the cup with his shot before it bounced five feet away.
"I just hit a little baby seven-iron," Bradley said, of the 176-yard hole.
Johnson, among the hottest players on the tour of late, followed his 65 Thursday with a 68. He made his birdie after Bradley's ace on No. 3, but finished with a double-bogey six on No. 18 and is seven behind Reed.
"This is a tournament of patience," Johnson said.
Among the other notable rounds Friday were Stewart Cink's nine-under 63, rebounding from his one-over start; James Driscoll's 63 that got his total to 13 under, good for a tie for fifth; and Jesper Parnevik, Ben Crane, Charlie Beljan and Brandt Snedeker posting eight-under 64s.
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