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(Reed Saxon | The Associated Press) William McGirt reacts after he made birdie on the first hole in the third round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Golf: Seeking first PGA Tour win, William McGirt surges into lead at Riviera
Golf » A flurry of birdies puts him atop crowded leaderboard.
First Published Feb 15 2014 05:32 pm • Last Updated Feb 15 2014 11:58 pm

Los Angeles • William McGirt had never matched par in his two previous trips to Riviera. Now he’s one round away from his first PGA Tour victory.

McGirt opened with eight birdies in 13 holes on a day when everything felt easy. He wound up with a 6-under 65 on Saturday in the Northern Trust Open, giving him a two-shot lead going into the final round.

Photos
At a glance

Leaderboard

Northern Trust Open

William McGirt -12

George McNeill -10

Charlie Beljan -10

Jason Allred -9

Brian Harman -9

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At stake for the 34-year-old McGirt is his first trip to the Masters — he has played in only one major — and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

Right behind him is just about everybody.

McGirt was at 12-under 201, two shots clear of George McNeill and Charlie Beljan.

McNeill, whose two wins were in the old Fall Series and an opposite-field event, started with an eagle and picked up a final birdie on the par-3 16th for a 66. Beljan, who lost in a playoff at Riviera last year to John Merrick, belted a 3-wood into 8 feet for eagle on the 11th hole and shot a 68.

The leaderboard was about as crowded as the 405, which was reduced to two lanes right off Sunset Boulevard. Twelve players were within five shots of the lead, which can be easy to make up at Riviera, especially with a leader new to this position.

"It’s just 18 more holes, and whatever is going to happen is going to happen," McGirt said. "All I can do is go out and play the best I can."

Jason Allred, the feel-good story this week after Monday qualifying for his first PGA Tour event in more than three years, had a 67 and joined Brian Harman (68) at 204.


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Champions Tour

In Naples, Fla., Kirk Triplett shot a 5-under 67 in windy conditions for a share of the second-round lead with defending champion Bernard Langer in the ACE Group Classic.

Triplett matched Langer at 10-under 134 on TwinEagles’ Talon Course.

Langer, also the 2011 winner and 2012 runner-up, followed his opening 64 with a 70. He won the season-opening event in Hawaii last month.



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