Low scoring pushes Lee Hodges, Paul Barjon to American Express lead heading into final round

Tom Hoge and Seamus Power have played well enough through three rounds of The American Express to be among the leaders at the tournament. But both Hoge and Power know they may have let a better chance at winning the tournament slip away Saturday afternoon.

“I would have liked a few more for sure, but there were quite a few tough holes out there,” Hoge said after a 4-under 68 that included just one birdie and no bogeys in his final 11 holes. “A couple tough par-3 that we had to deal with, a few tough tee shots, and there’s just enough wind and it’s moving around just enough that it was kind of tough to get the right yardage on all the approach shots coming in.”

With Hoge leading at 17 under and Power at 16 under in the clubhouse, they could only watch as Paul Barjon and Lee Hodges shot low scores on the tougher Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West on a breezy day to pass them up.

Playing together in the last group of the day at the Stadium Course, Hodges regained a share of the lead he had in the first round with an 8-under 64. Barjon shot 65, and the pair finished the day at 18-under 198. Hoge is alone in third at 199.

“It was tough early and (the wind) kind of died on our back nine a little bit,” said Hodges, who played his final nine holes in 6 under. “It was off and on, but it was a good wind for, like 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.”

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Hodges opened the tournament with a 62 at La Quinta, but was hitting the ball just as well Saturday, he said.

“It was a great day. Hit the ball really well. I know it was really nice to see some putts fall on that back nine,” Hodges said. “I made three nice putts in a row there from like 10 to 12. And then just kind of really hit some quality shots coming in to give myself some easy birdies.”

Playing side by side with Hodges, who is ranked 312th in the world to Barjon’s 313th, Barjon played the final nine holes Saturday in 4 under to get a share of the lead. A rookie on the PGA Tour, Barjon is looking for his first win on tour, as are six of the top 10 players on the leader board. Barjon also played his way into the final threesome Sunday, where he will play with Hodges for the fourth consecutive day.

Paul Barjon plays his shot from the ninth tee during the third round of the American Express golf tournament at Peter Dye Stadium Course. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

“It was great playing with Lee again for the third day. He played really good the first day, really kind of set the tone by making pretty much everything he looked at on the green,” Barjon said. “So that’s always good to see and just kind of get inspired by that and trying to make as many putts as we could the last three days and we made quite a few. So we’re going to try to keep it going tomorrow.”

The tricky back nine at La Quinta Country Club and trickier winds that hit the tournament Saturday prevented Hoge and Power from separating themselves from the field late in the day.

Taking advantage of the early scoring holes on the front nine at La Quinta, Hoge was 4 under through seven holes Saturday and Power was 6 under through six holes. But Hoge was just 1 under in his closing 11 holes and Power was even through his last final 12 holes to finish at 16 under and alone in fourth place.

“It was an interesting round. It was very fun on the front there,” Power said. “It was one of those rounds you just kind of made everything I looked at for an hour and a half. But, yeah, had a little bit of a hiccup there, three-putted 9 from really nowhere at all and didn’t take advantage of 11 or 13.”

That allowed other golfers playing on the tougher Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West to stay in touch with the leaders. Six golfers, including 2017 American Express champion Hudson Swafford and former British Open champion Francesco Molinari, are at 15 under with one round to play. The others are Harold Varner III, Harry Higgs, Lanto Griffin and Cameron Young.

Some of the biggest names in the field failed to take advantage of the relatively high scoring among the leaders at La Quinta. Patrick Cantlay, who led the second round at 14 under, finished at that number with an even-par round on the Stadium Course. World No. 1 Jon Rahm did shoot a 67 at the Stadium Course, but he is 13 under and within striking distance of less-experienced players.