LA QUINTA, Calif. – Before Patrick Reed earned his PGA Tour card in December 2012, he successfully Monday-qualified for six events and made 12 starts that year.
That experience, with wife Justine at his side as his caddie, has come in handy in the first two rounds of the Humana Challenge.
"For sure," Reed said. "It's a birdiefest, this tournament is. ... It's pretty easy to get in that Monday-qualifying mindset, due to the fact that you're playing three different courses. So, the first day, it's like, `All right, well, let's see how we do against the guys in my course there.' And the same thing every day."
A day after shooting a 9-under 63 at PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course to take the lead, Reed had another 9-under 63 down the road Friday at tree-lined La Quinta Country Club to stretch his advantage to two strokes over Brendon Todd.
"It's great to have that feeling that you can go out and shoot 63," said Reed, the Wyndham Championship winner in August. "And to actually do it two times in a row shows that what we have done during the offseason and what we're doing now is working."
Justine is pregnant with their first child, and her brother, Kessler Karain, is subbing as Reed's caddie. Justine has walked every hole with her 23-year-old husband this year and plans to rejoin him inside the ropes after the baby girl arrives around Memorial Day.
Justine got a good look at his best shot of the day, a high 5-iron approach on the par-5 fifth that landed softly and rolled to 4 feet to set up an eagle. He also had eight birdies and his lone bogey in 36 holes.
"That tee shot on 5's not easy," Reed said. "You have to hit a perfect high cut around that tree and if it goes straight, you're actually through the fairway. You have to hit a hook around those trees. And when I hit a perfect drive like that, had a perfect number for a 5-iron to the left flag. When I hit something three-quarters or 85 percent, it's normally a little draw, so I just aimed it in the middle of the green and hit it up there to 4 feet. That was kind of just perfect for me."
La Quinta has been that kind of place for the former Baton Rouge, La., high school champion who helped Augusta State win NCAA titles in 2010 and 2011. When Reed earned his PGA Tour card back in 2012, it was at PGA West.
Todd had a 63 on the Palmer course. He's the only player without a bogey.
"Obviously, both days were really solid," Todd said. "Bogey-free was huge. ... Before I knew it, I was at 7- or 8-under with a few to play, feeling like I should birdie every hole. ... The weather's been so good, I'm not surprised to see what Patrick did."
The temperature climbed into the 80s and it was so calm the ponds looked like glass, the water as still as the plastic swans PGA West uses to scare away geese.
Ryan Palmer was third, three strokes back at 15-under, after a 65 at La Quinta. He also made a short eagle putt on the fifth hole.
"Overall, it was another great day," said Palmer, coming off a tie for eighth in the Sony Open in Hawaii. "Another great finish, hanging in there, staying strong."
Charley Hoffman, the 2007 winner, was 14-under after a 66 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course. He had five straight birdies on the front nine.
"There's water, there's trouble if you short-side yourself, but if you're hitting good shots, the greens are good and you can make a bunch of birdies," Hoffman said.
Bill Haas and James Driscoll were 13-under. Haas, the 2010 winner, had a 66 on the Nicklaus course, and Driscoll shot 63 at La Quinta.
Charlie Beljan was another stroke back, shooting 64 on the Nicklaus course.
Matt Every and playing partner Will MacKenzie were 11-under in a group that included Kapalua winner Zach Johnson.
Every settled for a 68 on the Palmer course after playing an early five-hole stretch in 6-under with four birdies and an eagle. MacKenzie had a 66.
"I was just striping it," Every said. "I was hitting it close and then the greens, we were first off, so the greens were perfect, and I was rolling them in."
After a long wait at the turn, he made a double bogey on No. 10.
"We flew around the front," Every said. "Then we got to the back and there was a logjam."
Johnson had an eagle, six birdies, two bogeys – on his first two holes – and a double bogey in a 68 on the Nicklaus course.
"I would like to start over, but this is a tournament of patience," Johnson said.
Playing alongside Johnson, Keegan Bradley had a hole-in-one in a 66 that left him 9-under in his first start of the year. His 176-yard shot on the third hole landed about 10 feet short of the pin and rolled in.
"A little baby 7-iron," Bradley said.