NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Tom Pernice Jr. shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 on Friday for a three-shot lead in the Toshiba Classic.
The 58-year-old Pernice, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, has never played particularly well at Newport Beach Country Club, even though it’s a home game of sorts for the Southern California resident. The event was off the schedule last year while the clubhouse was renovated.
“I think the course is in the best condition it’s been in in quite some time. I thought the condition of the golf course was pretty inferior the last two or three times we played it,” Pernice said. “They did hire a new superintendent here, and obviously he’s doing a heck of a job because it’s remarkably better than it had been in the past.”
Seven players were three shots back: Scott Parel, Joey Sindelar, Scott Verplank, David Frost, Scott McCarron, Tommy Tolles and Fran Quinn.
Bernhard Langer, winless in four starts this year after he won seven times in 2017, was six strokes back after a 70.
Pernice started on the back nine and made four birdies in a six-hole stretch to turn in 4 under. He added birdies at Nos. 1, 3 and 6 before finishing with two par saves.
“Really wasn’t in any danger of making any bogeys until really 8 and 9. I hit a beautiful bunker shot on 8 and holed about a 6-footer,” Pernice said. “And then just over the back of the green there at No. 9, had a tough little chip and chipped it to about 5 feet and made it.”
The two-time PGA Tour winner said another Californian, Phil Mickelson, gave him a mental boost. Mickelson ended a victory drought of nearly 5 years last week at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to Phil, and Phil really has been encouraging me,” Pernice said. “We played a lot in the winter. He kind of inspired me and he said, ‘Just be aggressive and have fun, you’ll get one.'”