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Friends, playing partners Lee Hodges, Paul Barjon share American Express lead

Lee Hodges, left, shakes hands with Paul Barjon after they finished the third round of the American Express on Jan. 22, 2022.
Lee Hodges, left, shakes hands with Paul Barjon after they finished the third round of the American Express on PGA West’s Stadium Course. Hodges shot an eight-under 64, and Barjon had a 65.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
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Lee Hodges and Paul Barjon took advantage of a late tee time Saturday to miss the worst of a windy day and share the third-round lead in the American Express.

“It was tough early, and it kind of died on our back nine a little bit,” Hodges said. “It was off and on, but it was a good wind. The easy holes were playing a little easier, but the hard holes were hard. So you just had to make a couple pars and then get to those downwind holes.”

Playing together in the final group off the 10th tee on PGA West’s Stadium Course, the PGA Tour rookies and close friends each birdied the par-five fifth, par-four seventh and par-five eighth and closed with a par.

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“We’re just best buddies, and we have a great time out there,” Hodges said. “We keep it really light, and it’s easy to compete when your friends are playing well.”

Hodges, a 26-year-old former Alabama golfer, shot an eight-under-par 64. Barjon, a 29-year-old Frenchman who played at Texas Christian, had a 65.

“We just kind of feed off each other, so it’s been fun,” Barjon said.

Patrick Cantlay is hoping to win at La Quinta Country Club for the third time in four starts after taking a one-stroke lead in the second round Friday.

Jan. 21, 2022

Hodges opened Thursday with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club for a share of the first-round lead with defending FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, then shot a 72 on Friday on PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course.

Hodges and Barjon, both making their 14th PGA Tour start, were at 18-under 198.

Tom Hoge was a stroke back after a 68 at La Quinta, playing in the second group off the first tee in the strongest wind of the day.

“Generally, I would say it’s better to be here,” Hoge said about tree-lined La Quinta. “It’s a little more protected from the trees and a little bit shorter golf course, so you could play a little more conservatively off the tee, get the ball in play and go from there.”

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Hoge opened with his lone bogey of the week. He holed out from a greenside bunker on the par-four fourth for the first of three consecutive birdies, added a birdie on the par-five 11th and parred the last seven holes.

Seamus Power, also at La Quinta, was 16 under after a 66. The Irishman played a five-hole stretch on the front nine in six under, capping the run with an eagle on the par-five sixth.

“It was an interesting round,” said Power, who won his first tour title at the Barbasol Championship last year in Kentucky. “It was very fun on the front there. It was one of those rounds just kind of made everything I looked at for an hour and a half.”

Drew Peterson scored 23 points and Boogie Ellis added 18 points to lead No. 16 USC to a 79-67 victory over Utah on Saturday.

Jan. 22, 2022

Hudson Swafford, the 2017 champion, was at 15 under along with Harry Higgs and Lanto Griffin.

Swafford birdied four of his last five holes on the Stadium Course, the site of the final round.

“I was really patient,” Swafford said. “I gave myself a lot of looks, even though it played really tough early. I mean the wind, I’m not going to say it’s laid down, but it was blowing early pretty good.”

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Griffin had a 69 at La Quinta. He’s making his first start of the year after injuring his back carrying his dog and withdrawing from the Sony Open last week in Hawaii.

“It’s feeling a lot better than I thought it would, and I’m playing a lot better than I thought I would,” Griffin said. “So, it’s been a really fun week.”

Higgs shot a 67 on the Stadium layout in the first group off the first tee.

Patrick Cantlay watches his shot from the second tee on the Stadium Course during the third round of the American Express.
Patrick Cantlay, a former UCLA standout, watches his shot from the second tee on the Stadium Course. A stroke ahead entering the day, he had an even-par 72 to drop four strokes back.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Cantlay, a stroke ahead entering the day, had an even-par 72 on the Stadium Course to drop four strokes back.

Trying to win for the third time in four starts, the former Anaheim Servite High and UCLA player had four birdies and four bogeys. Last year in the desert, he closed with a Stadium-record 61 to finish a stroke behind winner Si Woo Kim.

Top-ranked Jon Rahm shot a 67 on the Stadium Course to get to 13 under. The 2018 winner finished with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-four 18th.

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Defending champion Kim was at 11 under after a 69 on the Stadium Course.

Tournament host Phil Mickelson tied for 150th in the 156-man field, shooting 78-73-72 and failing to advance to the final round.

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