Duf lights it up at La Quinta CC

Jason Dufner felt something special was about to happen and wasn’t afraid to say it.

Dufner reeled off seven birdies on his last nine holes and carded an 8-under-par 64 at La Quinta Country Club on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead over Jamie Lovemark into the final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge at La Quinta, Calif.

Dufner was at 23-under 193 after opening with a 64 on the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and following with a 65 on the TPC Stadium Course, both at PGA West, but he was only 1 over for the day through nine holes after opening the third round on the back nine.

“I was playing pretty good and I told the guys, our caddies and playing partners, that something good was going to happen on the front nine,” Dufner, who has not won since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, said of his 7-under 29.

“I’m relaxed and just playing golf like I should. When you are shooting 30 or 29 (for nine holes), it helps. Conditions are good for scoring and I’m not concerned about what other people are doing. I’m confident that I’m going to keep playing good golf.”

Lovemark celebrated his 28th birthday by shooting a bogey-free 65 on the Stadium Course. He had a chance to close the gap on Dufner but finished with four straight pars.

It was the third consecutive 65 for the 2007 NCAA champion from USC, who has not lived up to his potential as a pro because of injuries, including back surgery in 2011.

“I figured Jason was going to go low, so I had to keep the pedal to the medal,” said Lovemark, who was Nationwide Tour player of the year and leading money winner as a pro rookie in 2010.

“I just have to keep it going. I’ve won tournaments before, but it’s been awhile. I just have to keep taking it one shot at a time, as stupid as that sounds.”

Adam Hadwin of Canada posted a 64 on the Nicklaus Course and was three shots back in solo third, and David Lingmerth of Sweden shot 62, equaling the low round of the tournament, on the

Nicklaus Course, and was five strokes back in fourth.

Phil Mickelson, playing for the first time this year, carded a 66 on the Stadium Course and was six shots behind in a tie for sixth with Kevin Na, who had a 62 on the Nicklaus Course; John Huh, who shot 66 on the Stadium Course; Ryan Palmer, who came in at 66 on the Nicklaus Course, and Andrew Loupe, who had a 67 at La Quinta.

“It’s been all good for three days,” said Mickelson, the 2002 and 2004 champion in the old Bob Hope Classic, who has been working with new instructor Andrew Getson to get his swing back on plane.

“I’m getting the touch back and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s a course on which you can go low, but if you hit it off-line, you can make a big number. I’m looking forward to having another good round.”

The final round will be played entirely on the TPC Stadium Course.

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