SNOQUALIMIE — With a sizzling 8-under-par 64 on Saturday, John Riegger pushed his two-day total to 11-under 133 for a three-shot lead heading into today’s final round of the Boeing Classic golf tournament at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
The 50-year-old Riegger, who grew up in southern Illinois and lives today in Las Vegas, is just one solid round away from his third win in 31 years of pro golf. Likewise, the $300,000 first-place paycheck would exceed his earnings for an entire season in all but four of those years (2001-2004 on the PGA Tour).
The dollars would mean “my wife is going to be happy and my kids are going to be happy,” Riegger admitted with a smile.
But money aside, a win today “would mean a lot,” he said. After all, many of the players in this year’s field “have been beating up on me for 30 years.”
Riegger began his round with birdies on the first two holes, added two more on the seventh and eighth holes, and tacked on three more on Nos. 10, 12 and 16. But the highlight of his round was an eagle on the par-5, 590-yard 15th hole, capped by a chip into the cup from 45 feet off the green. His sole bogey came on a three-putt from just off the green on No. 11.
“It was a great day all in all,” said Riegger, whose two career wins came on the then-Nationwide Tour in 2007 and 2010. “I basically played the same way I played yesterday, but I got off to a better start today and just kind of let the momentum build.
“We’ve still got one more day to go and there’s a lot of great players out here,” he added. “There’s a lot of guys that are capable of going out and shooting 63 or 64 on this golf course.”
Chasing Riegger is a quartet of players knotted at 8-under 136 — Bobby Clampett, Kirk Triplett, Tom Lehman, and 2010 tournament champion Bernhard Langer. Lehman and Langer will join Riegger in today’s final threesome, teeing off at noon. Triplett, Clampett and John Cook (7-under 137) will tee off at 11:50 a.m.
And with 10 other players within six strokes of the lead, today’s winner is anyone’s guess.
“There’s a lot of great players out there, a lot of great champions,” Langer pointed out. “So it’s not over. Three shots sounds like a great deal, but on this golf course that can be gone in a hole or two.
“There’s a lot of golf to be played yet, and whoever is within maybe five shots has a chance. And I’ve won tournaments when I’ve been seven shots behind.”
One player hoping for a strong finish is the 51-year-old Triplett, who was born in Moses Lake and grew up in Pullman. Triplett attended the University of Nevada in Reno, but says he “was a Wazzu fan (as a boy) and always will be.”
“If you ask me of all the tournaments I would like to win,” Triplett added, “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.”
Seattle native Fred Couples flirted with contention on Saturday, closing with three birdies on the last five holes. Couples, who has yet to win a Puget Sound-area pro tournament in six previous tries, had two earlier birdies, but also three bogeys, to finish at 2-under 70. He has a two-day total of 5-under 139.
“It wasn’t sloppy, but it just wasn’t very good,” said Couples, adding, “I just butcher some of the holes that I feel like I should play well, and 18 (a 498-yard par 5) is one of them. (Friday) I had a 5-iron to the green to make par and (Saturday) I had a 4-iron to make par. I’m not asking to do a million good things, I’m just asking to do a couple of good things. Because then I might be 7 under and have a shot.”
Defending champion Jay Don Blake had a 5-under 67 on Saturday and, like Couples, is at the edge of contention with a 139.
First-round leader Bart Bryant had a nine-stroke swing in his scores from Day 1 to Day 2, going from a 6-under 66 on Friday to a 3-over 75 on Saturday. He is tied for 20th at 3-under 141.
Seattle native Rick Fehr, who is making his Boeing Classic debut, is having a disappointing tournament with back-to-back 77s for a 10-over total of 154. … Jeff Sluman had a 14-stroke improvement, following a first-round 79 with a second-round 65, to tie the largest two-round swing in tournament history. … Scott Hoch withdrew before the start of the round with an ankle injury.