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David Toms avoids craziness of 18th hole to hold onto lead at 2023 Galleri Classic

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — The trouble that many leaders found on the 18th hole of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course on Saturday couldn’t trip up David Toms in the inaugural Galleri Classic.

With players making bogey and double bogey in the groups ahead of him, Toms played the 531-yard par-5 with its famous island green conservatively for a par. That capped a 2-under 70 for Toms on a warm day in Rancho Mirage as he reached 9-under 135 and maintained a one shot lead over Kevin Sutherland.

“I could have gone for it,” Toms said of reaching the green in two. “I only had 225 to the front, but when you have a club that long to try and stop it before it goes over or goes to the back of the green and you have that (80-foot) putt that Rod Pampling had.”

Pampling managed to two-putt the green for a birdie, but others who finished ahead of Toms were not as fortunate in the second round of the 54-hole PGA Tour Champions event that is the first in the desert since 1997 and the first event at Mission Hills Country Club since the departure of the LPGA last year.

Dicky Pride had the same cross-country putt on the sloping green and knocked it in the water on the way to a 7. Steven Alker’s drive hit a tree and either never came down or bounced into the lake on his way to a 7. Miguel Angel Jimenez and Padraig Harrington each hit the water around the green to take 6s.

Fans watch the second round of the 2023 Galleri Classic at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo: Jay Calderon/Desert Sun)

“It’s that type of hole,” Toms said. “I think it might make it good for the fans and for the players as well. If they move the tee up another 20 yards, we’ll see a lot of guys go for it. So we’ll see how they set it up tomorrow.”

The rest of Toms’ round featured what he called the same solid play as he displayed with a 65 on Friday, just not the same scoring.

“I was in control most of the day. I missed a couple of greens there on the back nine but other than that it was really solid,” Toms said. “I didn’t make a whole lot of putts, but I felt like my speed was pretty good.”

Those missed greens on the back nine led Toms’ to bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes, sandwiched around a birdie on the 16th.

Sutherland played a solid round again for a 70, with three birdies and one bogey. His chance to hold the overnight lead ended when he bogeyed the 16th while Toms was making his birdie.

“Same as yesterday. I mean, for the most part, I putted really well,” Sutherland said. “I didn’t hit it that great, I hit it a bunch better yesterday. I just kind of chipped it well. With the exception of the short putt I missed on 16, I really putted well.”

Four players, including two of the most intriguing stories on the 50-and-over tour, are tied for third at 7 under. PGA Tour Champions reigning Player of the Year Alker shot a 69 despite his drive into the tree on the 18th. Rocco Meditate shot 70 and Steve Stricker, the leader in the Charles Schwab Cup this year, shot 68.

But it was Harry Rudolph who had the best round of the day, a 67 with two eagles for a golfer who made the tournament field in a qualifier Tuesday.

Other big names in the field include Fred Couples, who is tied for seventh at 6 under following a 70 on Saturday, and Bernhard Langer, who managed only a 72 on Saturday to reach 3 under and a tie for 32nd. Langer is tied for the most wins on the PGA Tour Champions with 45.

While Alker was a journeyman pro before turning 50 and coming seemingly out of nowhere to race through the tour in 2022, Rudolph is a player who was a junior sensation in the San Diego in an era of Phil Mickelson. But Rudolph never had close to the same success as Mickelson, eventually quitting the game, getting his amateur status back, turning pro again and still struggling to make it on tour.

Now 53, Rudolph played five PGA Tour Champions events last year and is playing on the tour for the second week in a row through weekly qualifiers.

Rudolph recalls playing the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills as a junior in 1984.

“That was the first time they had an event here,” Rudolph said. “I was 14 years old. I remember my dad driving me over here. It was the first time I had ever seen 117 degrees on a thermometer. I remember the parents just kind of dropping the kids off and saying ‘Have at it.’ I don’t remember water bottles or anything like that.”

Tied for third with 18 holes to play, the final round means as much to Rudolph as it does to Toms, who is looking for his second Champions tour win this month. A win would be stellar for Rudolph, but a top-10 finish would be the next best thing. A win could allow him to write the same kind of underdog script that Alker wrote in 2022,

“I need to top 10, because the top 10 gets me into the next tournament without having to qualify,” Rudolph said, eyeing a berth in the Invited Celebrity Classic in Texas in April. “That’s the initial goal. The goal is to win so I could be exempt out here. Win and you do pull a Steve Alker.”

Toms said he’ll need to continue to play well with the leaderboard as crowded as it is.

“I think what happens tomorrow is there are probably 20 guys it looks like that if anyone gets hot, they are the guy to beat,” Toms said. “Obviously, I have to play a good round. Today was the day I could have separated myself, because I felt like I played better than I scored.”

Funk, Jobe withdraw

Fred Funk, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour and a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, and Brandt Jobe, a two-time winner on the senior circuit, withdrew during Saturday’s round.

The 66-year-old Funk had played five holes on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club when he withdrew. He had shot a 1-over 73 in his opening round and was 4 over through five holes Saturday morning before withdrawing after a double-bogey on the par-3 14th hole with a wrist injury.

Jobe, 56, shot a 4-under 68 in Friday’s first round but had made two double bogeys and was 4 over for the day on Saturday when he withdrew after seven holes. Jobe, who had hip surgery last year, cited the hip as his reason for withdrawing.

Shad Powers of the Desert Sun contributed to this article.

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