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Els, Chalmers share Senior PGA Championship lead going to final round

Updated:2024-06-18 11:39    Views:129

Richard Bland holds up the ball after a birdie on the first hole during the second round of the Senior PGA Championship golf tournament Friday, May 24, 2024, at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich. (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via AP)

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Ernie Els kept the mistakes to a minimum down the stretch Saturday and hit wedge in tight for birdie on his final hole for a 2-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Greg Chalmers going into the final round of the Senior PGA Championship.

Chalmers, the left-handed Australian renowned for his putting, had a 66 while making only two bogeys, not a bad mark on the Harbor Shores course that gave so many fits.

Els, a four-time major champion and among the best of his generation, is in great position to finally get a first major title on the senior circuit. This is his 17th senior major, and even he was surprised to be atop the leaderboard.

They were at 10-under 203.

Richard Bland of England, the LIV Golf player who got into his first senior major from an exemption category he didn’t know existed, started out at 12-under par and then began a quick slide through tentative putting and shot 74 to fall one shot behind.

“I’m fortunate enough to be up there,” Els said. “You know, 10 under is leading at the moment; 12 under was leading yesterday. I played solid. I didn’t play spectacular, but played solid enough to get myself up there.”

There was enough wind, difficult pin positions and tough greens on the Jack Nicklaus design that it took nearly six hours for the 83 players who made the cut to complete the third round.

“Hopefully, we can move better tomorrow,” Els said.

There could be a lot of movement on the leaderboard. Harbor Shores yielded its share of birdies, particularly on the par 5s that were downwind, but it didn’t take much for players to get out of position and find themselves scrambling for par.

Even so, it was crowded at the top.

Bland and Chris DiMarco, who didn’t make a birdie on the back nine in his round of 71, were one shot behind. Richard Green of Australia had two eagles and still only managed a 70 after a bogey on the final hole.

The four players who were three shots behind included defending champion Steve Stricker, former British Open champion Stewart Cink and Jason Caron, a former PGA Tour player and one of the club pros competing in the Senior PGA Championship.

Chalmers ran off five straight birdies starting on No. 6 to take the lead before his golf got a “little scratchy” on the back nine. It was the control of irons that left him thinking he has a good chance to capture his first senior major.

“Not super comfortable with my driver today, but I was very comfortable with every other area of my game,” Chalmers said. “So if I can just get that squared away for tomorrow, see if we can get out there and compete. Looks pretty bunched up at the moment, so should be an exciting day, hopefully.”

Bland struggled with the wind, distance control and his putting. He made four bogeys in a stretch of six holes around the turn — he made par on the downwind, par-5 ninth, which felt like a bogey — and found himself as many as two shots behind.

He birdied the par-3 17th to get within one of Els and Chalmers, and it gave him a dose of perspective. Part of him is happy to be in the field. He was not aware of a one-time exemption for players who have won in the last five years on the European tour.

Bland couldn’t use it last year because it conflicted with LIV Golf Bedminster. But he was able to use it this year, and he goes into the last round just one shot behind.

“If someone offered you a shot off the lead at the start of the week, probably would’ve taken it. Doesn’t quite feel as good as that right now, but just got to get on with it,” Bland said. “Been around enough to know that you’re going to have some poor days. Of course you are. But do a little bit of work now and just try and get a little bit of just better.”


AP golf:

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