Ernie Els took the second-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Hoag Classic on Saturday, eagling the par-5 15th and birdieing the final two holes for a 7-under 64.
Making his third senior start, the 50-year-old Hall of Famer from South Africa rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 14th with the strong finish to reach 12-under 130 at Newport Beach Country Club.
“I’m just going to think about the job at hand, putting one foot in front of the other,” Els said. “I’ve won some tournaments before, but I can’t be thinking of that tomorrow, I’ve got to really keep the foot on the pedal. These guys are coming with birdies tomorrow. Just play a solid round and see what happens.”
Els lost a playoff to Miguel Angel Jimenez in his debut in the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, then tied for 34th last week in the Cologuard Classic in Arizona.
He eagled the 15th for the second straight day.
“I hit a nice drive and a 5- iron to about, what was it, 12, 14 feet,” Els said. “It was a really nice putt to go in because I bogeyed the previous hole, so it was really a nice momentum swinger and it got me going down 17 and 18. Made a good one on 17 and a good one on 18. A lot to play tomorrow, but I’m in nice position.”
Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Scott McCarron and Monday qualifier David Morland IV of Canada were a stroke back. McCarron had a 68, and Morland followed his opening 61 with a 70.
“If you asked me at the beginning of the week if I was a shot out of the lead with a chance to win, I would be happy,” Morland said “It would be nice to have a three-shot lead, but in contention. This is what we play golf for.”
Ken Tanigawa (66) and Ken Duke (69) were 10 under.
Hall of Famer Fred Couples, the 2010 and 2014 winner, topped the group at 9 under after a 66.
“It’s a great tournament. It’s one of my favorites,” the 60-year-old Couples said. “I tell everyone like Ernie, when you get on tour, you don’t want to miss Newport because they have great crowds and it’s a fun golf course.
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