Ernie Els erases five-shot deficit to win Hoag Classic
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Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Ernie Els fired a bogey-free, 6-under 65 on Sunday to come from five shots back and win the PGA TOUR Champions Hoag Classic at the Newport Beach (California) Country Club, his first victory since the 2020 SAS Championship.
Els, 53, quickly cut into Bernhard Langer’s lead with four birdies among his first seven holes then added clutch birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 to take the lead.
Ernie Els' bunker play leads to closing birdie at Hoag Classic
“I saw the weather report this morning and it looked like it was going to get gusty and maybe a little rainy, and that's exactly what happened,” said Els, who also won the Hoag in 2020. “So I felt if I could get off to a decent start and get myself established and take it from there, and that's exactly what happened. I almost played a perfect round. If I didn't miss that little short little putt on 15, it would have been fantastic.
“But it's still fantastic obviously winning. Yeah, this is hard scoring. You know, the last five, six holes were tougher than we normally get it. … Just excited to win again. I haven't won too many times out here. You've got to start somewhere.”
Langer was attempting to break his tie with Hale Irwin for most victories in PGA TOUR Champions history (45).
Langer, 65, held the lead until a three-putt bogey on the par-4 14th dropped him to 11 under. He shot a 2-over 73, which allowed several players to get into the mix.
“Basically came down to the putter, I didn't putt well,” Langer said. “I missed two very short ones and had whatever, a couple of three-putts. Didn't play too bad, I played good enough to shoot whatever, 1 or 2 under or something, that would have done it, but the putter was not good enough.”
One of those players who was in the mix all day was Doug Barron, who was in the final group with Langer, trailing him by just a stroke. He needed a birdie on the par-5 18th to tie Els, but by the time he reached the hole, rain was coming down harder and the hole was playing 544 yards into the wind.
Still, Barron hit his approach from 110 yards to 5 feet. But he pushed the putt by on the right edge, handing Els the third victory of his PGA TOUR Champions career.
The victory pushed Els to third in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, behind leader Steve Stricker, who tied Barron for second place at 12 under, and David Toms, who won last week at the Cologuard Classic.
“This is my first time here to play in the Hoag Classic, and it was fun,” Stricker said. “Challenging little course, you know, because the greens are tough and tough to putt. You've got a lot of short irons in your hand, but it was hard to get the ball close. But it was fun, it was a great area, fans came out. It was a fun week.”
Dicky Pride, Rob Labritz and Miguel Angel Jimenez tied for fourth at 11 under.
Pride won the Monday qualifier and with his top 10 earned a spot in next week’s inaugural Galleri Classic at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
“They've given me an exemption, which they will now get back, so they've covered me,” said Pride, who is 10th in the Schwab Cup standings. “So I knew I was playing this week, but I'm thrilled to be able to give them that exemption back and get in on my own. That's a huge deal. I'm very excited about that and being able to play next week.
“Obviously I'm playing very solid, 5 under in the Monday qualifier to win that and had a little flashback to Atlanta when I won the Monday qualifier there and I gave myself a chance on the front nine today, just couldn't get anything to fall on the back nine.”