Paul Barjon, Lee Hodges share third-round lead at WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz
Both Paul Barjon and Lee Hodges have grown accustomed to the top of the leaderboard of late. Barjon has finished inside the top three on three different occasions this year, while Hodges has earned five straight top-20 finishes. The duo has done everything but win so far this season, but each will be looking to change that narrative entering the final round of the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz.
Barjon and Hodges are each 11-under through 54 holes at the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, two clear of the field. While both will be focused on earning the biggest win of their careers to date, another incentive is in play. The top-five players in the season-long Korn Ferry Tour points standings at the conclusion of the tournament will receive exemptions into the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Both players would likely jump into the top-five of the standings with a top-two finish.
“We’re [basically] playing sectionals this week, right?” laughed Barjon. “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.”
Barjon grew up in New Caledonia, a small French island in the South Pacific, where he lived until he was 16. He then moved to France during high school before coming to America to play golf at Texas Christian University.
At one point this season, Barjon had been positioned inside the top-three of the leaderboard after 11 rounds in a 20-round stretch. He suffered a back-breaking defeat in a playoff at the El Bosque Mexico Championship by Innova in February. The 27-year-old entered the par-5 18th hole on Sunday tied for the lead and hit the green in two, setting himself up for a two-putt birdie to win the tournament. A three-putt from 70 feet left him in a playoff where he eventually fell to David Kocher. The tournament ended up being the final event before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a three-month shutdown.
“Over four days and 270+ 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.”
On the other hand, Hodges will make his debut in the final pairing on a Sunday on the Korn Ferry Tour. The 25-year-old has been very consistent this season with eight top-25s in 12 starts.
“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.”
Hodges had an up-and-down front nine on Saturday and turned at even par but hit a 6-iron to 25 feet at the par-5 11th before sinking the eagle putt to jump into contention. He added a closing birdie at the 18th to reach a three-day total 11-under.
“I’ve been playing smart, hitting it nice, chipping and putting it nice, I haven’t been doing anything poorly,” said Hodges, a University of Alabama alum. “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.”
While Barjon and Hodges will each be seeking a win tomorrow, several other players will have a close eye on the leaderboard with U.S. Open exemptions on the line. The top-three players in the points standings are likely safe (Davis Riley, Will Zalatoris and Taylor Pendrith), but players like Mito Pereira (projected sixth) and Jared Wolfe (projected eighth) will try to improve their standing on the final day.
Barjon and Hodges hold a two-stroke advantage over Anders Albertson and a three-stroke lead over 54-hole co-leader Charlie Saxon.
Sunday’s final round will be broadcast live on Golf Channel starting at 3:00PM.