NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the beach On a cold, windy Saturday at Newport Beach Country Club, Ernie Els bounced back from a bogey on the par-3 17th with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th to grab the lead in the Hoag Classic.
Els, the reigning champion in the event that was postponed last year, fired a 3-under 68 to grab a one-stroke lead over Lee Jantzen and Retief Goosen, all two-time U.S. Open champions, and first-round leader Cameron Beckman.
“Doesn’t it remind you of Scotland?” Els, a two-time winner of the British Open, agreed. “It had been a difficult day.”
The 52-year-old South African had a birdie and a bogey on the front nine, then birdied the par-4 12th, par-3 13th, and par-4 15th.
“On a lot of holes, the putter really kept me in it,” Els said. “I know I missed a short one on 17, but I made the putts I needed to make for the most part.” I was much better on the back nine. I was extremely scrappy on the front nine, a bit cold, I don’t know what it was, but on the back nine, I started striking it better.”
He shot a total of 8-under 134.
“Today was a terrible day for the entire experience,” Els stated. “It was kind of my objective to get it under par for the day, and amazingly, I’m on top of the scoreboard.”
In the tough circumstances, Janzen shot a 66, the best round of the day.”
“Under difficult circumstances, I’ve had some success,” Janzen added. “It’s not that I want to play in these conditions all of the time, but today was great.” Today, I had a lot of control over my flight, direction, and shots.”
He battled the blustery wind.
“You have to hit all kinds of shots on this course,” Janzen explained, “so you can image what happens when you throw in a 20-mile-per-hour wind.” “I believe the majority of the holes are crosswind. We rarely played directly downwind or into the wind. It’s always from one angle to the next, so you have to work it back into the wind a little to keep it from bounding and rolling away from you.”
Goosen had a score of 67.
“I’ve been having some issues with my pace on the greens this week,” Goosen said. “Everyone has struggled, but I’ve got five three-putts in the last two rounds, so that doesn’t help.”
Beckman birdied the 18th hole for a 71, a day after eagleing it for a 64.
Stephen Ames (69) was 5 under par, while David Toms (69) and K.J. Choi (67) were 7 under.
Bernhard Langer was 4 under par after a 73 after an opening 65. The 64-year-old German legend, who won the Chubb Classic in 2008, won his 43rd senior victory two weeks ago in Florida, two behind Hale Irwin for the tour record. Langer holds the record for being the oldest winner in the history of the tour.