COSTA MESA — The competitors in the championship flight of the Costa Mesa City Championship were well aware Jeff Coburn would be a contender to win.
The UC Irvine alumnus finished tied for third last year. But now he's the man to beat.
Coburn shot six-under 64 on the Mesa Linda course at Costa Mesa Country Club on Saturday and enters today's final round as the leader.
"I'm out here to win," said Coburn, a Rancho Santa Margarita resident who played at UCI, where he graduated in 2003. "Yeah, I came out to play, but I really came here to win."
Jason Bittick, last year's champion, isn't far behind after his 67, while three with ties to Orange Coast College — Ryan Indovina, Matt Parkovich and Benny Santa-Maria — are tied at 68.
Coburn overcame a less-than-ideal start and got hot. He bogeyed on No. 1, but then reeled off nine birdies. He slipped up on No. 17 with a double bogey, which made his 64 all the more impressive.
"I was happy with the way I played, except for that hole," Coburn, 29, said. "The pin is almost on the slope. It's close to unfair."
Aside from Coburn's 64, the story of the day was the Championship's tough pin placement. It left only 10 scoring under par and proved to be a challenge for everyone.
"I've got to give Mesa [Linda] a little bit of teeth, don't I?" said Sean Collins, the tournament director and the OCC men's golf coach. "These guys hit the ball so far now that if you don't put the pins into positions that are a little different then they are going to shoot nothing. Somebody will run away with it."
Ryan Knapp, an Estancia High product who played at OCC last season, finished second last year. But he finished one-over Saturday. He refused to use the pin placement as an excuse.
Indovina, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur last week, put a different spin on it.
"Coach loves to make the course difficult," said Indovina, who now plays for Cal State Dominguez Hills, where he earned NCAA Division II PING honorable mention All-American recognition. "He thrives on making it as tough as he can. If you accept it as a challenge as opposed to looking at it as funky or messed up, you can succeed and feel good when you do."
Indovina felt pretty good Saturday, but he would feel better today if he could surpass Coburn.
The first-day leader wasn't nervous after starting out with a bogey. It actually helped him.
"It kind of settled me down," Coburn said. "I wasn't worried. I got it out of my system. I made about an eight-foot birdie on two, and I was off and running."
Coburn will do his best to fight off those with ties to OCC. Kord Tagley, who played for Orange Empire Conference champion OCC last season, was one of five who shot 69. Tyler Annear, Mike Carpenter, Don Dubois and Ken Franklin also shot 69.
Josh Hurst, who plays for OCC, was one of five who shot even.
Newport Beach residents Stewart Hagestad and Will Tipton carded a 71. Today's round will be played on the Los Lagos course.
Jeff Thomas is the senior flight (gross) leader after his 69 on Los Lagos, while Dave Schuler is the leader of the senior flight (net) after his 66.