On a second day of ultra-low scores in the California desert, James Hahn and Roberto Castro emerged atop a crowded leaderboard after 36 holes at the Humana Challenge, both in search of their first career PGA Tour victory.
Seeking to become the second Web.com Tour graduate to win on the main circuit in as many weeks, Hahn fired a 5-under 67 Friday at La Quinta Country Club, a round that was matched by Castro on the nearby Palmer Private course. The pair sit at 14-under 130 after two rounds, one shot clear of Darron Stiles and two-time PGA Tour winner Scott Stallings.
Several golfers head into the weekend with a realistic chance to win, as 22 players will begin Saturday's round within three shots of the lead. That group includes former Masters winner Zach Johnson, who is two shots off the pace after a second consecutive round of 6-under 66, and Charles Howell III, who tied for third at last week's Sony Open and joins Johnson at 12 under after 36 holes.
The hopes of those chasing the co-leaders are likely buoyed by the relative inexperience of the men in front, as Hahn is making just his third career PGA Tour start and Castro recorded only one top-10 finish during his rookie season last year, a tie for seventh at The Greenbrier Classic. If last week's event demonstrated anything, though, it is that experience may not necessarily be a prerequisite for success these days on the PGA Tour.
Russell Henley, who claimed the Sony Open last week in his first start as a PGA Tour member, has continued his strong play into this event and sits three shots back at 11-under 133 after a 3-under 69 at the Palmer Private course. He is joined on that number by former major winner Stewart Cink and Robert Garrigus, who was a runner-up in La Quinta a year ago.
After struggling in the opening round, Phil Mickelson rebounded with a round of 5-under 67 on the Nicklaus Private course that included seven birdies. Despite the effort, he remains nine shots behind the leaders and will need a similar result Saturday at the Palmer Private course if he hopes to make the 54-hole cut.