PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Ken Tanigawa made a 30-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th at Poppy Hills on Saturday for a 5-under 66 and a two-stroke lead in the Pure Insurance Championship.
Making his 18th PGA Tour Champions start after earning his tour card at Q-school, the 50-year-old Tanigawa rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 17th with the eagle.
“I was just trying to two-putt, hit it on the green and try to make 4 some way, somehow,” Tanigawa said. “It just happened to go in. You don’t expect to make those.”
Gary Hallberg, Marco Dawson and Tom Gillis were tied for second. Hallberg had a 5-under 67 at Pebble Beach, the site of the final round Sunday in the event that pairs players with juniors from The First Tee program. Dawson and Gillis shot 68s at Poppy Hills.
Tanigawa got through Q-school as a re-instated amateur and turned professional again at the start of the season. The former UCLA player had a 10-under 133 total. He opened with a 67 at Pebble Beach on Friday.
“It would just be incredible,” Tanigawa said about the chance to win at Pebble Beach. “Pebble could be my favorite place to play golf. That’s what I was telling you yesterday. I’ve been playing here since amateur, our state am used to be up here. It’s just a magical place, especially when the weather’s like this. I just love it here.”
Hallberg closed with a birdie on the par-4 ninth.
“It was one of my best rounds,” Hallberg said. “I’ve had some lower scores, but today the wind was blowing this morning, so it was a little tricky. It’s firm, so when it’s firm, the greens are firm and it makes it a little bit harder.”
The 50-year-old Gillis is making his fifth senior start after opening the season on the Web.com Tour. He tied for third in his first two Champions event and tied for sixth in his last.
Kirk Triplett, Olin Browne and Duffy Waldorf were 7 under. Triplett, the 2012 and 2013 winner, and Waldorf shot 68, and Browne had a 69 – all at Poppy Hills.
Hale Irwin, the 73-year-old Hall of Famer who won the last of record 45 Champions titles in 2007, followed his opening 67 with a 75. He birdied three of the first four holes, then played the next eight in 8 over – starting the slide with a triple bogey on the par-4 fifth.
Irwin won the PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach in 1984 and took the senior tournament in 2005. Mike Fetchick is the oldest winner in tour history, taking the 1985 Hilton Head event at 63 years to the day.
First-round leader David Frost also struggled, shooting 74 after opening with a 66. Defending champion Bernhard Langer followed an opening 67 with a 76.
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