English made three birdies on each nine of the North Course to complete 36 holes without a single birdie on his card and hit the top of the leaderboard on 10 under par.
After opening with a birdie at the par-five first, the 25-year-old picked up three shots in four holes around the turn and added further birdies at the 14th and 17th holes to take him two clear of fellow American Nick Watney, Colombian Jhonattan Vegas and in-form Scot Martin Laird.
Watney, who missed the cut in Phoenix last week, also kept a bogey off his card on the North Course as he cruised to a seven-under 65, while Vegas enjoyed an excellent run of four birdies in five holes but littered his erratic 69 with three bogeys.
Laird, bidding to atone for his disappointing final day at TPC Scottsdale last Sunday after holding the 54-hole lead, was six shots off the pace with five to play before he eagled the 14th and then birdied 15 and 18 to return a second-consecutive 68.
Overnight leader Nicholas Thompson struggled on the tougher South Course as he laboured to a one-over 73 to slip to seven under, while Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter was one of a large group of players a further shot adrift.
Poulter added a battling 71 to his opening 66 to move into a share of sixth alongside Australian Jason Day, who birdied four of his last six holes on the North Course to cap a 65.
Sony Open champion Jimmy Walker carded four straight birdies in the middle of his bogey-free 66 on the North Course to join the scrum on six under, which also includes former US Open champion Lucas Glover and last week’s Phoenix Open winner Brooks Koepka.
Shane Lowry recovered impresssively from his opening 74 with a six-birdie 67 that lifted the Irishman to three under alongside American Ryder Cup players Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler.
Jamie Donaldson made the cut with nothing to spare on one under, but Luke Donald (75) and Justin Rose (70) played one shot too many to avoid a weekend off.
Phil Mickelson’s level-par 72 on the North Course left him at two over par, ensuring he would miss consecutive cuts for the first time in 13 years.
“It’s very frustrating for me right now,” Mickelson said. “I felt really ready to start the year and these first few weeks have been very poor.
“I feel like I’m hitting the ball tee to green quite well, really well, but my putting is beyond pathetic and if I can’t get back to the levels of 2013, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, because this is very frustrating.” ????