Defending champion Ernie Els shot a 3-under-par 68 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Hoag Classic.
Els sits at 8-under 134 after two rounds, one shot ahead of fellow South African Retief Goosen and Americans Lee Janzen and Cameron Beckman.
Els was pleased with his performance on a particularly windy day at Newport Beach (Calif.) Country Club.
“(That type of wind) happens a lot in Scotland, but not in California,” Els said. “The wind was blowing. Yeah, the whole experience was a difficult day today. To get it under par for the day was kind of my goal and surprisingly I’m on top of the leaderboard.”
Els, who recorded five birdies and two bogeys on Saturday, has a pair of top-10 finishes this season — a sixth-place tie at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and a tie for 10th at the Chubb Classic.
He is anticipating similar scores on Sunday, depending on the wind factor.
“(I need to) shoot a good one tomorrow,” said Els, whose previous victory here came in 2020, as the 2021 event was canceled. “If conditions are like this tomorrow, a similar round like today might get you in a playoff, but if it’s better tomorrow, you’ve got to go a little lower. I think you have to go middle 60s. Guys are going to come out shooting tomorrow.”
Of the three players tied for second, Janzen carded the best round with his 5-under 66. Goosen shot a 67, while Beckman played even at 71 on the day. Beckman eagled No. 18 on Friday to take a one-shot lead after the opening round.
“That’s exciting,” Beckman said of being one shot off the lead despite not shooting under par. “I would have taken it at the end of the day. This was a brutal day. I look forward to tomorrow. I don’t know what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow.”
If the weather is similar on Sunday, perhaps that could favor Janzen, who noted that he feels particularly comfortable in blustery conditions.
“I have had some good success under tough conditions,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I want to play under these conditions all the time, but today was good.”
–Field Level Media
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