An unusual northerly wind swept through Newport Beach Country Club on Saturday during the second round of the Toshiba Classic, which led to a lot of head scratching and roller-coaster rounds.
It also prevented anyone from grabbing control of the tournament.
After two rounds there is a three-way tie for the lead among Tom Purtzer, Bob Eastwood and Graham Marsh, who each have a two-day total of seven-under-par 135.
It is the first time in tournament history that there is a three-way tie after 36 holes, and if that wasn't enough of a crowd, there are eight others within two shots, another 11 within four and a total of 28 within five.
Vicente Fernandez, Joe Inman and Dave Eichelberger are one shot behind the leaders, and defending champion Mark Johnson, Jay Haas and 2000 champion Allen Doyle -- who has shot under par in 21 of 22 rounds he has played at Newport Beach -- are among a group of five players two shots back.
Purtzer's 67 tied three others for low round of the day on a short course that dares players to shoot a low score and has traditionally given up a handful of scores in the low 60s but Saturday played hard to get.
"All of us feel like we should be scoring better on this golf course," said Haas, one of only two players to play bogey-free golf Saturday. "There are only four or five holes that you have to hit more than a nine-iron [approach], so you would expect that you would have a lot of chances and be able to shoot a good score."
The low scores might still be out there. For the last five years, the tournament winner has had at least one round of 64 or better. So far, Eastwood's opening 65 is the best round this year.
Eastwood fell down the leaderboard with a stretch of four bogeys in five holes beginning at No. 9, but climbed back into contention with birdies on four of his last five. He said the wind made scoring difficult.
"I don't think we've played this course with these wind conditions in a long, long time," said Eastwood, playing at Newport Beach for the 10th consecutive year. "It was just coming out of a different direction and that made it tough."
Especially because the course features some of the smallest greens on the Champions Tour.
"You're trying to pinpoint your second shots on the greens so you don't have the downhill putts," Purtzer said. "Any time you get this much wind, the greens are small enough that it can create some problems."
Purtzer, Eastwood and Inman were among those who might have left the elusive low round on the course Saturday. Purtzer made six birdies and an eagle, but he also had four bogeys. Eastwood had five birdies and four bogeys. Inman had seven birdies and four bogeys.
Purtzer, who shot a tournament-record 60 when he won in 2004, said the tightly bunched leaderboard will make for some aggressive play.
"On this golf course, anyone can shoot in the low 60s," he said. "I'm guessing that there are probably 20 guys with a chance to win. You really need to stay on the gas because if you coast a little bit, you'll get passed by some guys."
Among those with history on his side is Doyle, who has four top-three finishes in seven appearances in the Toshiba. Another player with history is Hale Irwin, who is five shots back at two under. When Irwin won at Newport Beach in 1998, he started the final round five shots back and shot a 62.
"[Today] is going to be an interesting day," Marsh said. "Things are going to be happening all over the place and the winner could come out of any place. Everybody is going out there on offense. You've got to go ahead and play your own offensive game and hope that your offense is good enough on that particular day."