SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — Buckle up, golf fans.
It could be another wild Sunday ride at the Boeing Classic, which is known for fantastic finishes, including a record seven-man playoff in 2007 and playoffs the past two years. It will almost certainly be a white-knuckler for second-round leader John Riegger as he tries to navigate TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
Riegger, a Champions Tour rookie whom only the most avid golf fans have heard of, owns a three-shot lead at 11-under-par 133 after shooting an 8-under 64 on Saturday, the best score of the day. But much like last year when 64-year-old Tom Jenkins held a two-shot lead after 36 holes, it will be a grind for the long-hitting Riegger to maintain his lead.
There are 15 players within six shots of the lead, including Pullman High School graduate Kirk Triplett, who is tied for second at 8 under, and Seattle native Fred Couples, who is tied for 10th at 5 under.
“I hope I’m a little nervous, because if I’m nervous, that means I am paying attention,” Riegger said about Sunday’s round.
Riegger, who turned 50 in June, will certainly look to have a better final round than Jenkins did last year, shooting a final-round 78 to fall all the way back to 21st place.
Riegger has just three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, and his best finish in four Champions Tour events is a tie for 14th. He does, however, have two victories on the Web.com Tour, with his last coming as a 46-year-old. Two years earlier, he won after holding the lead going into the final round.
Riegger said as it stands, he wouldn’t be able to get into the final five events of the Champions Tour season, but a win would change all of that. And it would mean even more than that, he joked.
“It would mean my wife would be happy and my kids would be happy,” said Riegger, who chipped in from 15 yards off the green for an eagle on the 15th hole.
Joining Triplett in a tie for second were Bernhard Langer, the 2010 Boeing Classic champion and two-time Masters winner, Tom Lehman, last year’s Champions Tour points champion, and Bobby Clampett.
Couples struggled through his first 13 holes and was 1 over for the day, but made birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He missed about a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, then made a birdie on the 17th to get to 5 under for the tournament.
Couples said he is impressed with the player everyone is chasing.
“John Riegger is a guy I’ve known for a long time,” he said. “He’s overdue to do something because he’s got a great game. Tomorrow is going be a tough day for him (because he is leading), but that’s a great round he had today. He hits it a mile.”
Triplett said he heard some “Go Greyhounds” chants during his round, referring to the mascot at Pullman High. Like Couples, he would dearly like to win here.
“I would like to win the majors, I would like to win at Pebble Beach and I would like to win in my home state,” said Triplett, rattling off the events that mean the most to him.
Defending champion Jay Don Blake put himself in a spot where he can win again, shooting a 67 to move to 5 under. Like many others, his chances depend on what Riegger does.
“This course is tough enough that it may be difficult to shoot under par with the lead,” Triplett said. “So if you shoot 5 or 6 under par, you might be able to catch Mr. Riegger and keep ahead of the other guys.”