Ernie Els rallied from a five-shot deficit and closed with a 6-under 65 to win the Hoag Classic and deny Bernhard Langer a chance at setting the career victory mark on the PGA Tour Champions.
Langer has 45 career wins on the over-50 tour, tied for the most with Hale Irwin. The 65-year-old German began the final round with a one-shot lead and picked up an early birdie. He was still tied for the lead when he made two bogeys on the back nine, and failed to make birdie on the par 5s.
Langer finished with a 2-over 73 and tied for seventh, three shots behind. He is in the field next week in Rancho Mirage, California, where he gets another shot at the record.
Els won for the first time since October 2020, and the Hall of Famer never had a win quite like this. He had been practicing with the “saw” putting grip at home in Florida last week, but wasn’t sure about whether to try it in a tournament. He changed in the middle of the tournament, and then after missing a few, went back to a cross-handed grip. Either way, he was making enough putts to become a winner again.
His biggest challenge after he finished came from Steve Stricker and Doug Barron. Stricker, who leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings, made birdies on the 14th and 15th, but he missed chances coming in and his birdie on the 18th for a 67 left him one behind.
Barron also finished one back after finishing with six straight pars for a 70.