LOS ANGELES — Bill Haas had no reason to think this round at Riviera was going to be anything special.
With an iron in his hand, he failed to make birdie on the par-5 opening hole, the easiest on the golf course. Solid iron shots led to a pair of birdies on the front nine, and with Riviera playing tough in warm, dry conditions on Saturday, he was part of a large group challenging for the lead.
Three holes changed everything.
Haas, from Greer, made a 30-footer for birdie on No. 9. He pitched in from 60 feet for eagle on the scary par-4 10th. And he hit a good bunker shot with little margin for error on the par-5 11th that set up a birdie.
Just like that, he was on his way to a 7-under 64 and a three-shot lead going into the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
His 64 was the best round of a difficult day by three shots, and it was nearly eight shots better than the average score. It put Haas at 12-under 201, leaving him in good position to become 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 against 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.
Langer up by three
At Naples, Fla., Bernhard Langer shot a 2-under 70 to take a three-shot lead after the second round of the Champions Tour’s 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 consecutive pars after that, birdied No. 13, and had a par on the final five holes in windy conditions. He is at 12-under 132.
Shin, Ko out front
At Canberra, Australia, Jiyai Shin of South Korea and 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko both shot rounds of three-under 70 to surge six shots clear of the field heading into the final day of the Women’s Australian Open.
Pair share Africa lead
At East London, South Africa, South Africans Darren Fichardt and Jaco Van Zyl share the lead going into the final round of the Africa Open, two shots clear of their nearest pursuers at East London Golf Club.
Fichardt had a 65, but his second bogey on the 17th dropped him to 15-under 129 and into a tie with Van Zyl, who had a 68.