Bernhard Langer leads headed into final round at Hoag Classic

Bernhard Langer chips onto the 18th hole during the Hoag Classic golf tournament at Newport Beach Country Club on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Bernhard Langer winning his PGA Tour Champions record 46th title is one juicy storyline at the Hoag Classic this weekend.

Newport Beach resident Fred Couples becoming the first to win the tournament three times would be another.

Both are in play headed into the final day of the Hoag Classic on Sunday at Newport Beach Country Club.

Langer, who won the tournament in 2008, is alone in the lead at 12-under-par. But there are five other players within three shots of the lead, which could make for a suspenseful final round.

“There’s a whole bunch of guys and big names, good players,” Langer said. “I have to go low, yeah. Even par’s not going to do it, or a couple under. I’ve got to go better than that.”

Doug Barron reacts to seeing his ball close to the pin on the 18th hole during the Hoag Classic on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Doug Barron and Miguel Angel Jimenez are tied for second at -11. Langer, Barron and Jimenez make up the final group, which will tee off from hole No. 1 at Newport Beach Country Club at 11:25 a.m. Sunday.

Couples is tied for fourth with Brian Gay at -10. First-round co-leader Chris DiMarco’s second round included four straight bogies on the front nine, but he rebounded to sit in sixth at -9.

Langer, 65, shot a five-under 66 on Saturday, not quite shooting his age or better like he did when he fired a 64 on the first day. But he caught fire on the back nine, recording an eagle on the par-five No. 15 and back-to-back birdies on the final two holes.

Langer said he is enjoying the course changes which include green changes at Nos. 13, 15 and 17. He hit one of the shots of the day to make birdie on the par-three No. 8, holing out from a dangerous spot left of the green.

Fred Couples hits from a green-side bunker on the 15th hole during the Hoag Classic on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It’s one of the hardest shots to get up and down,” he said, adding that the shot was “a miracle.” “You give me 10,000 balls, I wouldn’t make another one, I think. It was one of those kind of shots.”

Barron, who shot five-under on Saturday, tied for fifth last year at the Hoag Classic and seeks another strong finish. The veteran Jimenez has never won the Hoag Classic, but has finished top-15 in Newport Beach three straight years and seeks his 14th career PGA Tour Champions title.

Couples has never finished outside of the top 10 at the event. Though he lives in Newport Beach, he said he actually doesn’t play at the course that often.

“As Todd [Pickup] keeps telling me, the owner of the place, ‘You have a locker here,’” he said. “The golf course is phenomenal. I really like it. I’m from Seattle and it reminds me of Seattle, the same poa annua greens.”

One shot off the pace, Miguel Angel Jimenez chips onto the 11th hole during the Hoag Classic on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

He is the only golfer who has not bogeyed in the first two rounds. Couples’ round Saturday included five birdies.

“I’m not making any mistakes,” he said. “If I don’t make any bogeys, I can be a little tentative on the greens versus if I make three birdies [Sunday], make a couple bogeys, then you’re stuck, then you’re going backwards. If I can pop in a birdie every now and then, I’ll be fine.”

Those looking for an underdog to root for Sunday can find one in Harry Rudolph, one of seven players tied for seventh at -8. Rudolph got into the tournament via a pre-qualifier on March 10 and a qualifier on Monday.

A former talented junior golfer who helped the University of Arizona win the NCAA championship in 1992, the La Jolla resident spent a couple of decades helping run a family coffee shop before getting back into golf in his 40s.

“Hopefully I can just stay out here a little bit more and keep playing,” said Rudolph, 53, making his eighth PGA Tour Champions start. “That’s really the goal, to get out here full-time.”

Rob Labritz hits from the bunker on the 18th hole during the Hoag Classic golf tournament on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)


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