After two rounds at the Riviera Country Club in California, the field remains extremely close at the Northern Trust Open.
Sang-Moon Bae and Fredrik Jacobson enter the weekend rounds tied for the lead, but they are far from safe. Ten players remain within four shots of the lead, and a few big names capable of getting hot are just within striking range.
Round 3 marks the point in the tournament where the best players step up their game and the pretenders work their way back to the pack.
Entering the final two days of the Northern Trust Open, these players are primed to give Bae and Jacobson a good run for the championship.
Donald got off to a somewhat slow start on Day 1 of the tournament, shooting a 69. However, he seemed to get back into the swing of things, trimming his score down by three strokes in Day 2 to shoot a 66.
This is Donald's first tournament of 2013, so some rust was to be expected. Considering he's fifth on the leaderboard, rust doesn't really appear to be an issue.
Donald showed that he can be a strong player in 2012. The fact that he's in the hunt after a long layoff shows that he's on top of his game and will be a threat to the rest of the leaderboard from this point on.
Simpson is one of the few top-10 players in the world that is still in the hunt after the first two rounds.
Much like Donald, Simpson got off to a slow start but turned things up in Round 2.
After back-to-back bogeys in his first round, Simpson plated a nearly mistake-free round on Day 2, only bogeying the 18th. If Simpson is able to continue cutting down his score every day and play bogey-free on Saturday, he'll be showing why he's one of the highest-ranked players in the world.
Lefty won't be found in the Top 10 heading into the weekend. He's currently sitting at T-13 on the scoreboard at -4.
However, that's only five shots out from the lead. For Mickelson, that's striking distance.
After firing a 71 on Day 1, Mickelson went into the clubhouse in Day 2 with a 67. Even with the improved score, he still had an up-and-down round. He eagled No. 1 before suffering a mini-meltdown and taking a double bogey on No. 10.
Despite the issues on that hole, he seemed to be rounding into shape just in time to make a run over the weekend.
After opening February with a win at the Phoenix Open, it's definitely too early to rule out an epic weekend comeback from Mickelson.
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