Contending is one thing, winning is another.
Both Paul Barjon and Lee Hodges have done a lot of the former this season, but the latter has been harder to come by. Each hopes to put that narrative to rest Sunday in the final round of the WinCo Foods Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, after climbing to the top of the leaderboard.
"It would be awesome to win," said Hodges. "I think it's been a long time coming. I've been playing some really, really nice golf. It feels like every tournament I've played in lately I've had a chance. Hopefully tomorrow I get it done."
The University of Alabama alum had an up-and-down front nine on Saturday, turning at even par. But after hitting a 6-iron to 25 feet at the par-5 11th, sank the eagle putt, then after six straight pars, closed with a birdie at the 18th hole for a 3-under 68 and a three-day total of 11-under.
"I've been playing smart, hitting it nice, chipping and putting it nice, I haven't been doing anything poorly," said Hodges. "I kind of know who I am a little more and don't try to be someone that I'm not. I'm not trying to hit it further; I'm just trying to be Lee Hodges. It's been good enough for the past few weeks for me lately."
Barjon, who grew up in France before attending and playing golf at Texas Christian University, carded the low round of the day, firing a 5-under 66. The 27-year-old played a virtually flawless round before bogeying the par-4 17th hole, and later missing a 10-foot birdie putt at the last.
This past February, just two putts from a win on the 18th hole at the El Bosque Mexico Championship by Innova, Barjon three-putted from 70 feet and subsequently lost in a playoff to David Kocher. Due to such, he looks forward to tomorrow's final round challenge, and said he's excited for the opportunity to again be in the mix.
"Over four days and 270-plus golf shots, a lot of different things can happen," said Barjon. "If you finish one shot back did you really play that much worse than the guy who won? I want to have a chance on the back nine on Sunday, that's what my TCU golf coach used to say. He used to say the Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday. If I can have a chance on the back nine here at Pumpkin Ridge, that will be cool."
The top-5 players on the season-long Korn Ferry Tour points standings at the conclusion of the tournament also receive exemptions into next month's U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Neither Hodges or Barjon are currently amongst the top-5, but both would secure spots with a top-2 finish Sunday.
"We're (basically) playing sectionals this week, right?" Barjon said with a chuckle. "That's how I take it. I've never played a major, not even close, so it's in your mind. Playing a major, and it being a U.S. Open, the toughest of the four, that would mean a lot. That would be a great experience."
Second round co-leader Charlie Saxon made a costly double bogey at the par-4 14th hole en route to a 1-over-par 72 and 8-under total.
Steven Alker, with whom Saxon shared the lead to begin the day, struggled to a 2-over par 73 thanks in large part to two double bogeys.
Sunday's final round begins at 7:25 a.m. and the final group is scheduled to tee off at 1:05 p.m.
The final round is being aired on Golf Channel from 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
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