CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of them knows what it takes to win on the PGA Tour. The other two hope to find out.
That's how the Wells Fargo Championship shapes up heading into the weekend, with Jason Dufner — a five-time winner on tour — taking a one-shot lead over Joel Dahmen and Max Homa, neither of whom have finished higher than ninth in a tour event.
On a day that broke cool and damp but finished warm and dry, Dufner blitzed Quail Hollow Club with an 8-under 63, leaving him at 11-under after two rounds.
"I've been here before, it's been a while," said Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner but whose most recent victory is the 2017 Memorial. "I kind of know what to expect."
That's different from Dahmen and Homa, who are entering unfamiliar territory.
Dahmen, who will play in the final twosome Saturday with Dufner, was tied for the first-round lead with Rory McIlroy and shot another 66 to stay close to the top.
Homa climbed into contention by matching Dufner's 63. Eight birdies — four on each side — did the trick for Homa, a former NCAA champion who lost his tour card in 2017.
The trio atop the leader board has a bit of breathing room on the rest of the field.
McIlroy, a two-time Wells Fargo champ, ballooned to a 70, thanks to a double bogey on No. 8 (his 17th hole) and a bogey on No. 9. He's tied for fourth with Patrick Reed (69) and six behind Dufner.
"I turned a 66 into a 70," McIlroy said. "Just need to try and shake off that bad start — sorry, bad finish."
The dry conditions that set in by mid-morning made the greens hard to judge on approach shots and putts.
"The greens are really, really firm," McIlroy said. "They're not overly fast. So if you start missing greens, it can make it a little bit tricky."
FIVE WHO MATTERED
— Jason Dufner: Finished his round of 63 with four birdies over his final six holes. Overall, his card held seven birdies and an eagle.
— Joel Dahmen: A missed 4-footer on his final hole cost him a share of the lead. Even so, a second consecutive 66 has him at 10-under, tied for second.
— Max Homa: Had a round to match Dufner's. His 63 leaves him tied with Dahmen for second.
— Rory McIlroy: His good work on Thursday (tied for first-round lead) went out the window with double bogey, bogey finish Friday.
— Justin Rose: Was disappointed with a 70 on Thursday; rallied with a 4-under 67 Friday and sits tied for sixth, six behind Dufner.
— Quail Hollow's short holes proved pivotal for some of the bigger names. Rickie Fowler, one of pre-tournament favorites and a past winner of the Wells Fargo, drove far left on the short par-4 No. 8 hole, leaving his ball beneath two beer carts. Brews wheeled to the side, Fowler pitched onto the green.
— On No. 3, Phil Mickelson's approach covered the flag, but caught a slope and trickled off the green. Mickelson walked up the fairway with a putter in his hand but had to switch to a wedge when he saw where his ball ended up. He made a bogey 5.
— Charlotte's Webb Simpson had a tough start Friday — bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes (his third and fourth). He made 14 consecutive pars after that for a 2-over 73. He's tied for 51st, 11 behind Dufner.
— Reed worked his way into contention with a 2-under 69. Reed, who started the day tied for third and one shot out of the lead, trails Dufner by five.
— Mickelson's zero-for-Wells Fargo streak continued. Lefty went 71-76 for the tournament and missed the cut. That snapped Mickelson's tournament record of 15 consecutive cuts made.
THEY SAID IT
— "That would be trending in the right direction." – Dufner on shooting 63 heading into the weekend.
— "It's a funny game." — McIlroy.
— "(Quail Hollow) offers you a little bit of a chance to play catch-up if you play a great round, but that catch-up round is hard to find." — Rose.
— "We had that mist, kind of fog-misty thing for a little bit there. But me being from the Northwest, I didn't mind that at all." — Dahmen, on playing conditions early Friday morning.