Estes followed a career-tying 61 with a second-round 5-under-par 66 en route to taking a comfortable four-shot lead into the weekend in Germantown, Tenn.
Estes stands at 15-under-par. Scott McCarron (65), Brent Schwarzrock (67) and Jesper Parnevik (64) are all tied for second place at 11-under.
2001 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange is five shots off the lead. The 46-year-old two-time U.S. Open winner has carded rounds of 65-67 this week. Hes in search of his first top-10 finish since 1997.
Estes is running on physical fumes. The 35-year-old Texan qualified for the upcoming U.S. Open on Tuesday, playing 36 holes in the process; and entered this weeks event with low expectations ' expectations that were greatly enhanced by an opening 61.
Still, sleep has been an afterthought to golf. Following his Thursday play, Estes was escorted from one interview to another. He said he finally ate around 9:00 p.m., and then had to get up at 4:40 a.m. for his 7:30 tee time Friday morning.
After a nap and a late tee time tomorrow, Ill finally be caught up (on my sleep), Estes said.
Its been seven years since Estes won an event. He shot 62 in the first round and eventually recorded his maiden victory in the 1994 Texas Open. He took those positive memories with him to the TPC at Southwind on Friday.
I was thinking about the Texas Open, when I opened in 62 in 94; and then I was able to come back in round two with a 65, to really post a good 36-hole score to set myself up for the weekend, said Estes, who won that event in wire-to-wire fashion.
Driving is one of the reasons Estes has yet to find the winners circle again. He ranked 78th in driving distance in 1994; hes yet to crack the top-100 since.
However, Estes may have found his secret weapon in 2001. Hes back to 73rd in driving distance, averaging 276.5 yards per pop.
Its a Cleveland driver, Quad Pro. It will be available in November, so you cant get one yet, but Ive got one of the few, Estes stated.
Ive had to kind of find my own specs, and I think theres still a lot of guys out here really struggling with the driver.
You just cant hit a hook-faced driver, and all of these titanium drivers are designed for (high) handicapped players. They are not designed for the good player and the professional.
I think some of them are finally beginning to realize that, some of the players and the reps, and hopefully the technicians, also.
Friday, Estes got his round off to a solid start by getting up and down from the bunker on the par-4 10th, his first hole of the day.
I didnt want to bogey the first hole after shooting 10-under yesterday, he said.
After a birdie at the par-3 11th, Estes stalled with seven straight pars.
Upon making the turn, Estes birdied four of his first five holes before recording his first bogey of the tournament at the par-4 6th.
Estes quickly recovered by sinking a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 7th to move to 15-under for the tournament.
Knowing the past history of this tournament at this course, you know, you have to keep going, said Estes in primary reference to John Cooks winning total of 26-under-par 258 in 1996.
Phil Mickelson is one player who wont be around for the weekend. The left-hander notched rounds of 70-71 to miss his first cut since February.
Full-field scores from the FedEx St. Jude Classic