Padraig Harrington surges into lead at Hoag Classic

Padraig Harrington tees off during the Hoag Classic at the Newport Beach Country Club on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

Apart from the fact that they were where they had been when the day began, the lead group had little to write home about late into the afternoon on Saturday at the Hoag Classic.

That narrative changed over the final four holes for Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who played four under par on the last four holes to take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round at Newport Beach Country Club.

Harrington, who sits at 12 under par, had dropped to even on his round with a bogey at No. 14. An eagle on the next hole reversed his fortunes, and he closed with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 to surpass Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee (-11), the leader after Friday’s action.

Thongchai Jaidee tees off during the Hoag Classic at the Newport Beach Country Club on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

“It was longer in places, but I was able to use my length quite a bit on a few holes,” Harrington said of a course drenched from the morning downpour. “I preferred it today the way it was. I’ve liked it every other day, but I think it played into my hands today.”

A one-shot lead over Jaidee is “not enough,” said Harrington, who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame later this year. He added that he felt it was important to go into the final round leading with potentially more challenging weather to come. The forecast calls for 20 mile-per-hour winds with a chance of rain in the late afternoon on Sunday.

“He seems to be playing very nicely,” Harrington said of Jaidee. “In my head, I’m trying to think of five [or] six under par would take the rest of the field out and would put a lot of work on Thongchai to keep up with that.”

Ernie Els of South Africa hits an approach shot at the Hoag Classic in Newport Beach on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

Jaidee failed to cash in a birdie opportunity on No. 18 in front of Harrington’s own go-ahead birdie . The ball approached the hole with speed, but Jaidee said the ball “skipped” on its path to the hole, ultimately just missing to the right.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and England’s Paul Broadhurst will be among the chase pack, the pair tied for third at nine under par. Jimenez chuckled that Harrington is used to playing in the rain when it was noted that more showers could come into play Sunday.

“The main thing is you have the same kind of weather for everyone,” Jimenez said.

Paul Goydos surveys a putt during the Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

The low round of Saturday belonged to Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez (-6), whose seven-under-par effort gave him a puncher’s chance going into Sunday. Gonzalez is now tied for the 11th position with a group of four that includes Long Beach State alumnus Paul Goydos, who shot three under par for the second consecutive day.

South Korea’s Y.E. Yang also produced a bogey-free round of five under par, including a birdie on No. 18. Yang is among a trio of competitors tied for fifth, along with Steve Stricker and Woody Austin.

After surviving the driving rain of the morning, Stricker said he “righted the ship” in the middle of his round, but he lamented missed opportunities late.

Y.E. Yang of South Korea makes a putt during the Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

“It was hard with the wind, a lot of crosswinds today,” Stricker added. “I made some good up-and-downs when I didn’t hit a proper shot in there, but I hit a couple nice ones and made a couple birdies on some holes that played pretty tough.”

K.J. Choi (South Korea), Stephen Ames (Canada) and Alex Cejka (Germany) round out the top 10, each tied for eighth at seven under par.

Newport Beach resident Fred Couples withdrew from the tournament after finishing out the front nine during the second round.

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott watches his ball after teeing off during the Hoag Classic on Saturday.
(James Carbone)