BETHESDA, US: Ernie Els, a four-time major winner trying to end a three-year title drought, fired a six-under par 65 and leaped into second place after Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) third round of the PGA National.
The 46-year-old South African eagled the 12th hole at Congressional Country Club, holing his second shot on the fly from 157 yards in the fairway with a 9-iron, and ran off three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 sixth in the day’s low round on the course where he won the 1997 US Open.
“The way I’m hitting it now, the way I’m swinging, I’m getting more confidence,” Els said. I’ve had a terrible time last year and a half in results but I feel good. I want to go out there and prove something to myself again. Nothing to anybody else.
“I’m going to love being in contention.”
Els finished on 13-under par 200 after 54 holes, two strokes behind leader Billy Hurley, a 607th-ranked resident of nearby Annapolis who fired a bogey-free 67 to stand on 198, a three-round event record, in search of his first PGA crown.
“I played pretty solid golf and I hope to do the same tomorrow,” Hurley said. “No lead is big enough. The idea is to make some more birdies. I don’t think even par will get it done.”
Els, a member at Congressional, managed his first bogey-free round in 115 PGA rounds.
“Playing with a little confidence in the swing,” Els said. “Found my swing and putting touch and just enjoying it. The putter was hot for me most of the round.”
Els resets after Masters
It was a far cry from the humbling Masters meltdown Els had in April, making a quintuple bogey nine on the first hole at Augusta National, six-putting in his first round the worst-ever score on the opening Masters hole.
Spaniard Jon Rahm, a 21-year-old in his professional debut, was third on 201 with Americans Bill Haas and Webb Simpson fourth on 203 and 53-year-old Fijian Vijay Singh sharing sixth on 205 with US rookie Harold Varner.