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Pernice holds lead at soggy Toshiba Classic

The leaderboard during the second round of the Toshiba Classic on a rainy Saturday proved as slippery as the turf at Newport Beach Country Club. But when the final players had signed their soggy scorecards in the fading, saturated light, Tom Pernice Jr.’s name remained alone in the No. 1 spot.

Pernice, who held a three-shot lead after the first round, shot a one-under-par 70 to finish the day at eight under, a stroke ahead of fellow UCLA alumnus Scott McCarron, who shot 68, and Joe Durant, who had a bogey-free 66.

Pernice, 58, still had a bogey on the par-five 18th on his mind shortly after the round. His third shot into the wind on the uphill finishing hole spun back off the green into a bunker.

“Just not a very good finish, unfortunately,” he said. He was unable to get up and down for par on a day when his putting wasn’t as effective as it had been in his opening 64.

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“I hit the ball better today, actually,” he said. “I just didn’t have that many opportunities and didn’t capitalize.”

He had 30 putts Saturday, only 22 the day before.

Although Pernice never dropped out of the second-round lead, when he bogeyed the par-three 13th at the same time Durant sank a sand shot to birdie 17, there was suddenly a five-way tie atop the leaderboad at seven under. Vijay Singh, Steve Jones and McCarron were all tied with Pernice and Durant.

But almost as suddenly as the top of the leaderboard became so tight, names began sliding off. Within about 10 minutes, Singh, Jones and McCarron all fell back, and when Pernice poured in another long birdie putt on the par-four 14th, he again stood alone on top at eight under.

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Singh, 55, is still looking for his first individual PGA Tour Champions victory after winning 34 times on the PGA Tour. He was within a shot of the lead when he bogeyed the par-three 17th, his first bogey of the tournament. And he missed a short birdie putt on 18 to shoot 68 and finish at six under, tied with Scott Verplank (69).

Jones, 59, won eight tournaments, including the 1996 U.S. Open, on the PGA Tour but has never been a factor since joining Champions in 2011. He hasn’t played on the tour since 2015 and has one top-10 finish in 61 career starts. He shot 69 and is tied for sixth with Fran Quinn (70) at five under.

McCarron, 52, won four times on the tour last year, including his first major, the Senior Players. The La Quinta resident won twice in 2016, and though he believes he’s hitting the ball as well as ever, what seems to stick in his mind are the putts that aren’t going in.

“Yeah, I made too many mistakes,” he said.

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“Anything outside three feet, even two feet, on these greens is very difficult. You hit some good putts and they don’t go in, and then you maybe hit some bad putts and they do go in. I’m waiting for that to happen.”

McCarron missed a two-footer for par on the 14th hole.

The morning began with a front moving in off the Pacific, light rain and a 10-mph breeze blowing in off the water. The heavier rain predicted for later in the day never materialized, though there was a fairly constant drizzle throughout, the kind of cool, damp day perfectly suited for the coots and geese hanging around the ponds protecting the third, fourth and 17th holes. Dryer weather is predicted for the final round, where Pernice, Durant and McCarron will be the final group.

Bernhard Langer, who won seven times in 2017 but has yet to win this year, double bogeyed the par-five 18th to shoot 76, his highest score in almost five years.

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Pernice won in his Champions debut in 2009 and has won four more times, the most recent in 2016.

What does he think about Sunday’s final round?

“I feel fine,” he said, with reason. Pernice has gone into the final round with at least a share of the lead five times in his Champions career. He’s won four of those.

sports@latimes.com

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