Seamus Power superbly birdied his closing two holes to remain in sight of the leaders heading to the third round of the American Express at Palm Springs, California.
Power was out on the Pete Dye Stadium course on day two, the harder of the three host venues, producing a three-under-par 69 and while moving into double figures at 10-under-par, the Irishman dropped into a 12-way share of 12th place.
It sees the World No. 49 trailing only four behind American Patrick Cantlay, who with scores of 62 and 68, now heads to the Nicklaus course leading by a shot at 14-under-par.
Though conditions are set to change on day three with strong winds forecasted and Cantlay heading to the Nicklaus course.
“I think usually you have to really put your foot on the gas and make a ton of birdies,” Cantlay said. “Tomorrow, if the forecast stays the same, it will not be that kind of day, and it’s just, it will be a different challenge.
“So, controlling your golf ball will be a premium tomorrow, and leaving your golf ball in the correct spot will be really key to scoring well.”
Fellow American Tom Hoge (66) remains in second spot at 13-under-par and with five players including exciting Will Zalatoris producing the lowest round of the week, a 61, to be sharing third on 12-under. The 25-year-old Californian birdied his opening three holes and his closing seven.
In a reflection of the tightness of the competition, there are 23 players within four shots of the lead.
Power was even par with two birdies and an equal number of bogeys for his opening nine ahead of birdies at his 10th and 14th holes, and while he dropped a shot on his 16th, he finished strongly with birdies at 17 and then holed a four-footer for birdie to round off his day.
Fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell looks headed for a first paycheque of the New Year currently sharing 24th place in also shooting 69 on the Nicklaus course and moving to nine-under-par.
McDowell mixed six birdies with one bogey and a double-bogey standing out like a dog’s hind leg on his card on the par-3 8th. Though the good news for G Mac is that he seems to be getting back to his best after being dogged at the end of last year with injury.
“I’m just continuing to build. It’s obviously difficult coming to these courses for the first time (since 2003) and some of these nuances that we don’t know but the wind kicked up for the last hour and a half which made that back nine playing a little more difficult coming in,” he said.
“But after that innocuous little double on the eighth hole (his ball went into the water when it looked like finishing close to a tight front left pin) — which is a short part three which had a really evil little pin position — to shake that off and still make six birdies was pleasing.
“So, I’m happy enough and looking forward to getting back at it tomorrow.”
Unlike Power, McDowell is contesting this week’s event for just a second time since 2003 given he has normally commenced a New Year in the Middle East.
“It’s always a good place to start the year in the Middle East with Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“It’s always a nice place to start the year but this is like the desert swing PGA tour-style and to be honest with you, I really, really like it here. It won’t be 18 years before I come back. I’m really enjoying the golf courses and the weather is absolutely perfect out here. The facilities are also phenomenal so it’s a great week to work on your game.
“The golf courses allow you to make birdies if you play well and you can get some confidence rolling early in the season which is very important for a guy like me right now, where confidence is key.”
Saying that, McDowell expressed disappointment his third round will be on the tougher Stadium course.
“I am a bit disappointed that I was going to have the toughest golf course on the toughest day but in a funny way, when there is so much scoring to be done this week, do you mind tough and tough? Or do you want one of the easier courses playing tough?
“Obviously we’ve all got to play the three rounds and it’s just luck of the draw but I am looking forward to being out there on the Stadium Course, flighting the ball around and hitting some three-quarter control type irons.”
- Full scoring HERE