LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Rookies Paul Barjon and Lee Hodges defied blustery winds in the California desert on Saturday to share the third-round lead in the US PGA Tour American Express, each in search of a first tour title.
France’s Barjon, a 29-year-old ranked 313rd in the world, carded a seven-under 65 and 26-year-old American Lee Hodges, who played alongside him, posted an eight-under 64 as the duo took a one-shot lead on 18-under 198.
American Tom Hoge was a shot back after a 68 for 199, with Ireland’s Seamus Power alone in fourth after a 66 for 200.
Barjon and Hodges put on an impressive display on the Stadium Course, the toughest of three in use for the tournament and the one where Sunday’s final round will be played.
They teed off on the 10th hole and Barjon nabbed eight birdies with one bogey while Hodges had eight birdies in his bogey-free round.
Barjon got going quickly, giving himself a one-foot birdie putt at the 10th, and draining an eight-footer at the eighth before he rolled in a 23-foot birdie at the 13th.
He picked up a stroke at 16 before an errant tee shot on 17 led to his lone bogey of the day.
Barjon rebounded with a 20-foot birdie putt at the fourth, then birdied the fifth, seventh and eighth to keep pace with his playing partner.
“Great round,” Barjon said. “Started pretty good with four quick birdies and then, yeah, a little bit of a slow down here in the middle six of the 18 holes and then a good finish with some good shots and good putts, so that was exciting.”
Barjon and Hodges are friends who have known each other from their days on the Korn Ferry developmental tour and before that the MacKenzie Tour.
“It was great playing with Lee again for the third day,” Barjon said “He played really good the first day, really kind of set the tone by making pretty much everything he looked at on the green.”
Hodges birdied 11 and 17 to make the turn at two-under for the day, then rolled in birdie putts of 11, 12 and 17 feet at the first second and third.
He birdied the par-five fifth, then matched Barjon’s birdies at seven and eight.
“It was a great day,” Hodges said. “Hit the ball really well. I know it was really nice to see some putts fall on that back nine. I think I made three nice putts in a row there from like 10 to 12.
“And then just kind of hit some quality shots coming in to give myself some easy birdies.”
Hodges said the wind was “tough early” but had died down a bit as he and Barjon played the back nine and in some cases was even helpful.
“It was off and on, but it was a good wind – the easy holes were playing a little easier but the hard holes were hard. So you just had to make a couple pars and then get to those downwind holes.”
Six players were tied for fifth on 201 and another four on 202 – a group that included FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay.