Bernhard Langer leads Hoag Classic after the second round

NEWPORT BEACH – On a beautiful, sun-kissed Saturday afternoon at Newport Beach Country Club, the leaderboard was a virtual revolving door during the second round of the 2023 Hoag Classic.

Eight different players had at least a portion of the lead, including a six-way tie at the top at one point during the back nine before 45-time PGA Tour Champions champion Bernhard Langer emerged as the 36-hole leader after the Finals five holes in 5 under par.

During an up-and-down round in which he made three bogeys, Langer shot a 5-under 66 for two rounds totaling 12-under par, one shot ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez (67 on Saturday) and Doug Barron (66). Newport Beach resident Fred Couples, a two-time Hoag Classic champion, is two shots behind at 10-under after consecutive 66s and tied for fourth with Brian Gay (65 on Saturday).

The 65-year-old Langer will be in the final group with Jimenez and Barron in Sunday’s finals as he chases his 46th career championship title, which comes from a tie with fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Hale Irwin. would break.

Is he anticipating the opportunity?

“NO . . . I’m not going to go there until the last hole or two if it happens,” Langer said after Saturday’s round no point in dreaming about it.”

With the field benefiting from ideal scoring conditions, rain-soaked greens and lift-clean-and-place rules for the second straight day, Newport Beach Country Club had no defense for the world’s top 50-plus players. 47 players of the 78-strong field shot on Saturday in the 60s.

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As a result, 12 players are within four shots of the lead, including first-round co-leader Chris DiMarco (9-under overall) and seven players tied at 8-under: Steve Stricker, Mike Weir, Darren Clarke , KJ Choi , Thongchai Jaide, Rob Labritz and Monday Qualifier Harry Rudolph.

“I think anyone within five strokes of the front has a chance,” Langer said. “There’s a whole bunch of guys and big names, good players. I have to go deep.”

Couples, the 2010 and 2014 Hoag champion, is one of those notable contenders and is attempting to become the first three-time champion at Newport Beach. He also has two second places and has never finished in the top 10 in eight previous appearances at Hoag Classic.

“It’s always fun to have a chance to win,” Couples said on Saturday after his second straight round without a bogey. “I mean, three-time champion; probably nobody here knows that but us. But of course I like. The course is phenomenal.”

Langer, Jimenez and DiMarco were leading by 64 seconds into the first round, and DiMarco shagged the No. 1 on Saturday to become the first player to reach 8-under. But then his putter gave him away en route to four consecutive bogeys (including three 3-putts) to tumble down the leaderboard. He rallied on the back nine to shoot 69.

Despite what Langer described as a “rotting” game midway through his round, two spectacular holes reignited his title chances — a hole-out chip for birdie on the 207-yard, par-3 #8 and an eagle 3 par. 5 15..

At No. 8, Langer shot his tee shot into deep rough to the left of the green – an area that usually leads to bogeys or worse – but he pocketed his chip for an unlikely birdie. “It was a miracle,” Langer said, “you give me 10,000 balls, I wouldn’t do any more.”

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On the back nine, birdie Langer #14, eagled #15, birdie #17 and birdie of the par-5 18. He paced up and down the front of the green to take the overall lead with a tap-in for the first Saturday.

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