LOS ANGELES – Bill Haas had another bogey-free round at Riviera on Saturday for a 7-under 64 – the best round of the day by three shots – that gave him a three-stroke lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
On a warm afternoon off Sunset Boulevard that made the greens even faster, Haas turned in a remarkable score. The key was a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 6-under par, including a 60-foot pitch that dropped for eagle on the scary par-4 10th hole.
He was at 12-under 201 and will try to become only the eighth back-to-back winner in the 76-year history of this tournament.
All he cares about today is winning.
It’s very difficult in this game to just pull away from the rest of the field, Haas said. You’ve only seen a few guys ever really do that, and those are guys like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson. So I think I’ve just got to stay in the moment, don’t let my emotions get the best of me.
A year ago, Haas was two shots behind going into the final round and wound up winning in a playoff over Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. This time, he has a comfortable margin over U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who each thought they did well for a 68.
John Merrick bogeyed the 18th hole for a 70 and joined Simpson and Schwartzel at 9-under 204.
Luke Donald overcame a sloppy start – three bogeys in a six-hole stretch – with four birdies on the back nine to salvage a 70 that put him four shots behind, along with Fredrik Jacobson (72).
Mickelson missed three par putts of about 6 feet on the front nine and had a 72, putting him nine shots behind. Ernie Els, playing with Mickelson, also dropped shots early and dropped out of the hunt with a 73.
The round started with 20 players separated by five shots.
LPGA: In Canberra, Australia, Jiyai Shin of South Korea and 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko both shot 3-under 70 to surge six shots clear of the field heading into the final day of the Women’s Australian Open.
Ko jumped to an early lead at Royal Canberra with birdies on the 2nd, 4th and 6th holes. She allowed Shin to regain a share of the lead with bogeys on No. 12 and 14 before making another birdie on the final hole to finish the day at 17-under 202.
Shin kept pace by making an eagle out of the green-side bunker on the par-5 6th. But she squandered a chance at the outright lead with a bogey on the next-to-last hole.
CHAMPIONS: In Naples, Fla., Bernhard Langer shot a 2-under 70 to take a three-shot lead after the second round of the ACE Group Classic.
Langer, who had a 10-under 62 in the first round, picked up where he left off with a birdie on his first hole. He made 11 straight pars after that, birdied No. 13, and had a par on the last five holes in windy conditions. He is at 12-under 132.
Taiwan’s Chien Soon Lu and Tom Pernice Jr., who was runner-up last week in Boca Raton, Fla., are tied for second at 9-under 135.
EUROPEAN: In East London, South Africa, South Africans Darren Fichardt (65, 15-under 129) and Jaco Van Zyl (68) share the lead going into the final round of the Africa Open, two shots clear of their nearest pursuers at East London Golf Club.