Campbell, who tied for second place at the Sony Open last week, is through three days of this five-day event at 19-under-par 197 -- four strokes off the 54-hole record shared by Joe Durant and Joe Ogilvie.
Two-time champion Phil Mickelson, who is playing in his first event of the new season, is one stroke further back after a 4-under 68. He is tied for fourth place with first-round leader Pat Perez (70) and Billy Andrade (67).
Justin Rose tied for the second-lowest round of the day with an 8-under 64 and is among six players who share seventh place at 12 under.
In this 90-hole event, play is spread over four courses -- Classic Club, La Quinta, the Palmer Course at PGA West and Bermuda Dunes -- through the first four rounds. The final round will be played at the Classic Club, a new course added to the rotation this year.
Competitors are paired with three amateur partners over the first four days. Included among the amateurs are a slew of celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds.
Campbell played the Palmer Course on Friday with Major League pitcher Roger Clemens, actor Matthew McConaughey and 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team captain Mike Eruzione.
During the round McConaughey, a 10 handicap, came within inches of a hole-in-one; Eruzione, an eight handicap, miraculously holed out a chip from the rough on another hole.
But Campbell emerged as the real star, stealing the show from his better-known partners by shooting in the 60s for a third straight day.
The 30th-ranked player in the world, Campbell started his round on the back nine and birdied the first two par-5s he played, including the 14th, where he chipped to within a foot on his third shot.
At the par-4 16th, Campbell knocked a sand wedge within 6 feet to set up his third birdie. He then made the turn at 19 under after collecting his fourth birdie of the day at the par-5 18th.
Campbell knocked his drive into the rough at the par-5 second hole, but recovered for a tap-in birdie to reach minus-20. That moved Campbell to 12 under (10 birdies; one eagle) on par-5s for the tournament.
'It's crucial to take advantage of them, especially out here,' Campbell said of the par-5s. 'They have been really reachable, so you know you really need to make birdie on them, kind of keep the momentum going and hopefully...you can carry it over and make a few birdies on the other holes, but you definitely need to get the par-5s.'
Five straight pars followed before Campbell stumbled to his first bogey of the tournament at the par-4 eighth, where he hit two bunkers and fell to minus-19.
'It was just kind of a nightmare hole for me,' Campbell admitted.
Until then, it looked like Campbell might tie Jack Nicklaus and Bruce Lietzke for the event's 54-hole record lead of five strokes. Both Nicklaus (1963) and Lietzke (1981) won in the years they led by five shots after three rounds.
Up next for Campbell is the Classic Club, which has been playing as the toughest course in the rotation.
'[I'm] looking forward to playing it. I think if the wind is not blowing, you can make some birdies out there,' Campbell said. 'In turn, if the wind is blowing, par [or] a couple under is great score.'
Also teeing off at the Classic Club Saturday will be defending champion Justin Leonard, who recovered from a second-round 72 to shoot a 5-under 67. He is among a group of nine players tied for 19th place at minus-10.