New Orleans - Jason Dufner fired seven birdies and an eagle in an eight-under par 63 on Friday to put himself in unfamiliar territory atop the Wells Fargo Championship leaderboard.
"It has been a while since I've been in the lead or competing for a tournament," said Dufner, a former top-10 player and winner of the 2013 PGA Championship who has slumped to 230th in the world rankings.
"But I know what that feels like. I'm just going with it, you know?"
Dufner, 42, set an early target in the second round at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, building an 11-under total of 131 that put him one stroke in front of Joel Dahmen and Max Homa.
Dahmen, who shared the overnight lead with Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, carded his second straight 66 while Homa had eight birdies in his 63 to reach 10-under 132.
McIlroy, meanwhile, carded a 70 for 136 and shared fourth place with American Patrick Reed, who carded a 69.
It was a further stroke back to England's Justin Rose, Ireland's Seamus Power, Australian Jason Day and American Pat Perez.
Dufner's round matched the lowest of his career. The last time he posted a 63 it was in the 2013 PGA Championship, where he went on to win his lone major title to date.
He birdied two of his first three holes and bounced back from a bogey at the fourth with an eagle at the par-five seventh.
He birdied the eighth, then picked up four more birdies coming in.
Dufner, who has missed eight cuts in 15 prior tournaments since the current season opened last October, has made wholesale changes in a bid to stop the rot.
He's on his fourth caddie of the year and parted with swing coach Chuck Cook.
"I think I'm on my fourth or fifth putter this year, I'm on my fourth or fifth driver, my fourth or fifth golf ball, fourth or fifth lob wedge," Dufner said.
"I'm trying to find stuff that's going to work."
He admits that he feels a sense of urgency.
"My window's pretty short on my career," he said.
"I've probably got three or four more really good years left in me, so I'm not trying to be mediocre or average."
But he also knows that one great round is just a stepping stone.
"I'm just happy to be playing the weekend," Dufner said.
McIlroy had certainly looked more likely to be leading the charge into the weekend, but he closed out his second round with a double-bogey and a bogey at the eighth and ninth holes.
A day after getting the most out of his round, McIlroy said, "it was the complete opposite".
Although he hit 10 of 14 fairways - four more than he did on Thursday - McIlroy needed 31 putts.
"You know, I turned a 66 into a 70," he said.
"Golf, it's a funny game and these things happen."
Leading scores after Friday's second round of the PGA Wells Fargo Championship (par-71, USA unless noted):
131 - Jason Dufner 68-63
132 - Joel Dahmen 66-66, Max Homa 69-63
136 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 66-70, Patrick Reed 67-69
137 - Justin Rose (ENG) 70-67, Seamus Power (IRL) 69-68, Jason Day (AUS) 68-69, Pat Perez 69-68
138 - Brendon Todd 68-70, Sebastian Munoz 68-70, Martin Laird (SCO) 67-71, Kyle Stanley 69-69
139 - Im Sung-jae (KOR) 70-69, Fabián Gómez (ARG) 70-69, Aaron Wise 69-70, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 72-67, Lucas Glover 70-69, Vaughn Taylor 68-71, Richy Werenski 70-69
140 - Tom Hoge 70-70, Kevin Streelman 71-69, Jim Knous 68-72, Jason Kokrak 70-70, Paul Casey (ENG) 69-71, Matt Jones (AUS) 70-70, Doc Redman 70-70