McCaron leads the field in birdies and is tied for the lead in putts per round.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- With darkness rapidly descending, Scott McCarron saw enough of the 18th green from 211 yards away to realize it would be one of the tougher shots he faced Friday. The way his week is going, it turned into another birdie.
McCarron aimed his 5-wood toward the bleachers and watched it fade beautiful back toward the flag to about 10 feet, a final birdie in his round of 3-under 68 that gave him a two-shot lead over Steve Stricker and Tommy Armour III in the Northern Trust Open.
"I usually do my best work at night," McCarron said.
Phil Mickelson will need to do better on the weekend if he wants to successfully defend his title at Riviera. He was nine shots worse than his opening-round 63, but it was easy to see the upside after a 72 put him in the group only three behind.
"This is the first time I'm in contention heading into the weekend, and I'm excited about it," Mickelson said.
The last two groups finished in the dark, including two players whose PGA Tour debuts turned into short ones.
Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old sensation from Japan, had a 71 to finish at 2-over 144 and miss the cut by three shots. Vincent Johnson, playing on the Charlie Sifford Exemption, bogeyed his last hole for a 74 to also finish three shots below the cut line.
Johnson's round came undone on the fifth hole.
After opening with two birdies, he was preparing to chip for par from right of the fifth green when the ball moved ever so slightly as he placed his wedge behind it. Johnson wasn't sure it moved, so he checked with his playing partner, Bryce Molder, who did not think it did.
Television showed otherwise, and when rules official Steve Rintoul caught up with Johnson on the seventh tee, he had to deliver the bad news. It was a two-shot penalty -- one for the ball moving, another for not replacing it.
"It was too hasty of a move instead of waiting for a rules official," Johnson said, adding that he had a good time and learned his lesson.