Late birdie run sends Dufner to Nelson lead

IRVING, Texas -- Jason Dufner birdied four of his final five holes to grab the lead at the midway point of the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Dufner chipped in twice in his late birdie spree, including a difficult 38-footer from a closely-mowed down slope beyond the No. 18 green, very near the spot where Phil Mickelson in the preceding threesome failed to get up and down and made bogey.

“That’s a difficult position to be over the back of that green to that hole location,’’ said Dufner, who recorded his first career win at the Zurich Class of New Orleans on April 29.

“Pretty lucky for it to go in, but that’s part of golf,’’ he added. “Sometimes you get those breaks, sometimes you don’t.’’

Dufner’s final birdie allowed him to cap off a round of 66 and break out of a seven-way tie for the lead at 7-under.

A glance at the scoreboard at No. 11 let Dufner know that nobody was running away with the tournament. He said his goal was to make a birdie or two in his last seven holes, a goal he exceeded.

Dufner chipped in for birdie from out of the primary rough right of the green on No. 15. He also converted birdie putts of 22 feet on No. 14 and 15 feet on No. 16.

Before the Nelson, Dufner led the PGA Tour in 2012 in scoring average before the cut (69.04) and the trend continues.

Through the first two rounds of PGA Tour events, Dufner owns the lowest scoring average

“My game has been consistent,’’ Dufner said. “Thursday was probably the best ball striking round I’ve ever had. I putted more than I hit the ball. I had 34 putts and hit the ball 33 times and that doesn’t happen very often.

“Usually when you’re feeling good, you’re going into the weekend leading or close to the lead, and I’ve been fortunate to be in that position, closed out one a couple of weeks ago, haven’t played quite as well in others, but hopefully the experience that I had in New Orleans will build for me and I will have confidence going into the weekend.’’