Bae Sang-Moon was in familiar territory atop the Northern Trust Open leaderboard on Friday, and the South Korean believes he has what it takes to stay there this time.
Bae played Riviera Country Club without a bogey, firing a second-round 66 for a nine-under par total of 133.
He has a one-shot lead over former champion Aaron Baddeley of Australia and American Robert Garrigus in the USD 6.7 million US PGA Tour event.
"I love this course," Bae said of the par-71 Riviera layout. He had a share of the halfway lead here last year but dropped out of contention after slumping to a third-round 76.
The 27-year-old said it was a salutary experience, and he went on last season to add his first US PGA Tour title at the Byron Nelson Championship to his 11 international victories.
"It was a really, really good experience and I learned a lot," he said of his weekend struggles here last year. "Patience -- that's it."
Bae said he'd learned not to get angry over every putt that failed to drop, and instead take the bad breaks more in stride.
With that attitude he said, "I can play well the next two days."
Baddeley has plenty of good memories of Riviera to draw on after winning here in 2011 to end a four-year victory drought.
The Australian hasn't won since but he stormed into contention with a six-under 65, capped by four straight birdies. He was joined on 134 by Garrigus, who posted his second straight 67.
"To birdie the last four was extra special," said Baddeley, who rolled in putts ranging from 13 to 26 feet at 15, 16, 17 and 18.
"Today was good because I made a couple of good saves, but coming in I had some good looks and made them."
- 'Nice to see the Riv' -
Garrigus kept himself in contention with a round that included an eagle at the par-five 17th. He said the firm, fast conditions were a boon for him on a course where he has failed to shine in the past.
"I'm hitting it straight, and if I'm hitting it straight and I'm swinging confident it's going to be a lot of fun this weekend," Garrigus said.
"It's starting to be kind of nice to see the Riv every day."
Charlie Beljan, who lost a playoff to John Merrick here last year, was alone in fourth after a 68 for 135.
Overnight leader Dustin Johnson carded a one-under 70 to sit fifth on six-under 136. He was joined by Brian Harman (69), William McGirt (67) and Jim Furyk (68).
Monday qualifier Jason Allred had the low round of the day -- a 64 that included nine birdies before back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16.
The 33-year-old who has spent most of his career on lower-rung circuits was in a group on five-under that included former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
Six players failed to finish before darkness halted play. None figured in the top 30, but it meant the projected cut of one-over par won't be official until the second round is completed on Saturday.