PEBBLE BEACH — Technically, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen are former PGA Tour players competing on the PGA Champions Tour. Informally, the three are juniors on the senior tour.
Goosen, 51, Els and Furyk, both 50, have combined to win five U.S. Opens. None qualified to compete in the country’s national championship this week, so being among the leaders at the PURE Insurance Championship will suffice.
With Saturday afternoon starters still playing, Els, Furyk and Goosen have surrounded open qualifier Cameron Beckman during the second round of the 17th annual event at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Els, playing in his ninth career PGA Champions Tour event, held a one-shot lead over at 8-under-par halfway through his second round.
Beckman, who doesn’t have any status on the PGA Tour Champions, is tied with Furyk, Goosen, Dicky Pride and Stephen Leaney at 7 under. Goosen shot a second-round 68. Beckman, Goosen, Pride, were also still playing at The Herald’s afternoon deadline.
Furyk, who held a one-shot lead over three players after an opening-round 64, appeared on his way to another stellar round. He had four birdies in his first seven holes and moved into the four-shot margin.
But Furyk, the 17-time PGA Tour winner who claimed the 2003 U.S. Open and finished second three times, quickly faltered. Furyk was five over par in the final seven holes, including a double-bogey on the 18th. He finished with a 73 and is tied with Goosen at 7-under 137.
“In a worst-case scenario I should be in shouting distance of the leaders tomorrow,” said Furyk. “I’ve got a chance to go out and win a golf tournament, so I’ve got to look at the bright side and not dwell on 17 and 18.”
Goosen, who won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004, joined the PGA Tour Champions circuit in February 2019. Els is playing in his ninth career PGA Champions Tour event. Furyk is playing in his second career event on the circuit for players at least age 50.
“It’s nice playing three rounds; and obviously I am a rookie,” said Els, who won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997. “A lot of the places I play I haven’t seen before, but I just love it out here.
“I love the camaraderie of the guys. These are the guys I played with most of my career. They work on their games, the guys are ready to play and I just follow their example. I just want to be ready to play and enjoying it.”
Furyk turned 50 in May and won the Ally Challenge in his PGA Tour Champions Tour debut in August. He finished tied for 29th last week at the Safeway Open in Napa, the PGA Tour season opener.
After his tee shot on the 18th, Furyk hit his third into the Pacific Ocean. He reached the green with his fifth shot and two-putted for his double bogey.
“I just didn’t really commit to three of the shots on 18,” Furyk said. “The drive was into the wind and just tried to hit kind of a little fade and fairway finder and kind of just pulled that just a bit.
“I was very lucky to find the ball and was able to hack it out and kind of save a shot basically there, but from there I made another mess of it. I probably should have just laid that ball up. I had a very difficult up-and-down and was able to knock in about a 6 or 7-footer, so that stopped the bleeding a little bit.”
Doug Barron, Gene Sauers and Kent Jones were grouped at 5 under. Barron had a 73; Sauers shot 71 and Jones was early in his second round.