Prugh takes lead at Hope Classic
Alex Prugh surged ahead when the sun finally came out at the Bob Hope Classic, shooting a 7-under 65 on the tough La Quinta course to take a one-stroke lead over Bubba Watson and Martin Flores on Saturday.
With three remarkably consistent rounds in the five-round, four-course tournament, Prugh pulled ahead at 21-under 195. Yet if Prugh had any strong feelings after his second straight bogey-free round, he didn't let on.
``I was almost bored with myself a little bit,'' Prugh said. ``It's not a bad thing. I was hitting the driver very well, and I kept on hitting fairway after fairway. ... Boring rounds are actually fine with me.''
Prugh thinks the pro-am format keeps him away from any mental dangers that might otherwise arise from leading a U.S. PGA Tour event after three rounds. Perhaps helping amateurs with their game prevents him from overthinking his own.
Whatever the magic formula, Prugh is the first rookie to lead a round at the famed event since John Senden took the second-round lead in the 2002 tournament eventually won by Phil Mickelson.
``I'm just trying to entertain my amateur partners as well as I can, and hopefully they get their money's worth when they're out here,'' Prugh said.
Fellow rookie Flores was every bit as impressive as Prugh, shooting the second straight 65 of his bogey-free tournament to pull into a tie with second-round leader Watson (68), who rallied after a slow start on the Arnold Palmer Private course.
Joe Ogilvie (68) was four strokes back at 17 under, Chad Collins (69), Tim Clark (67) and Bill Haas (66) were 16 under, and Mike Weir (67) was 15 under.
After rain washed out play on Thursday and threatened on Friday, the players finally reveled in perfect Palm Springs scoring weather. Amateurs, celebrities and pros alike were thrilled to see fewer fairway marshes and more sturdy greens, but two unheralded rookies made the biggest splashes by crowding around Watson, who's also seeking his first U.S. PGA Tour victory.
The long-hitting Watson was in prime position to pull away a bit after doing well on the two tougher courses during the rainy first two days, but he was 1 over after eight holes on the Palmer course on Saturday before stringing together four birdies on the back nine.
``I just played bad,'' said Watson, the tour's second-longest driver last year. ``The 68 was getting a lot out of my round today, so I'm not mad at a 68. It's just (that) I wanted to play better. My caddie kept yelling at me, trying to get me to pay attention and stay focused. I just hung in there.''
After finishing 72nd last week at the Sony Open, Prugh has played 41 straight holes without a bogey, while the 27-year-old Flores has yet to make a bogey in the tournament. Flores seemed a bit more excited than Prugh about the auspicious debuts of two Nationwide Tour regulars last year.
``There's a first for everything, and I just seemed to be very comfortable in this situation for some reason,'' Flores said. ``I don't know why that is. I never want to come off as arrogant, but ... I'm just confident in my game, and I like that right now.''