BC-GLF--PGA Tour Champions,1st Ld-Writethru
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Steve Stricker didn’t have another near-flawless round, but he found a nice way to finish.
He birdied the final hole for a 2-under 70 and held the lead Saturday after three rounds at the Regions Tradition. Bernhard Langer was among three players two strokes back.
Stricker, who shot a second-round 64, enters the final round of the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors at 14-under 202. He was 1 over on the front nine on Greystone’s Founders Course after his first bogey of the Tradition but birdied all three par 5s on the back nine.
On the final one, Stricker sent a shot onto the green above the hole on No. 18. His approach had landed in the rough near a bunker.
“I didn’t hit the best of second shots,” Stricker said. “I tried to hit a 3-wood and hit it really hard and tried to get it into the green. Kind of hit a little thin and rolled it up there.
“I was just trying to give myself a 10-footer, try to play it off the back of the green. I was able to get a good read from Billy Andrade. He showed me the line a little bit and I was able to knock it in.”
Langer, who won the Tradition in 2016 and 2017, shot a 68. David Toms had a 70 and Andrade a 69 for the three-way tie for second. Tom Byrum and Paul Goydos were three shots back. Byrum shot a 66 and Goydos a 69.
The weather held out for the second straight day after the first round was halted at midday. But more thunderstorms were forecast overnight and throughout the morning Sunday, with leaders scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and a two-tee format.
Langer saved par on No. 13 with a nice pitch to a couple of feet from the hole after hitting it in the water. He had his first bogey of the tournament two holes later.
“I mean, there’s good bogeys and bad bogeys, and 15 was horrible after a good tee shot, bad layup and then downhill from that point onward,” Langer said.
He is seeking to become the Tradition’s first three-time winner. He already has won a pair of majors three times each, the Senior Players Championship and the Senior Open Championship.
Toms, who counts the 2001 PGA Championship among his 13 PGA Tour wins, made a long putt from the edge of the green on No. 7 for his first birdie of the round.
He won the U.S. Senior Open last year for his only win on the 50-and-over circuit.
“Nobody in our group really got hot,” Toms said. “We all played pretty solid and within striking distance. That’s kind of what you want come Sunday afternoon. Right there, just have to shoot a low one (Sunday).”
Stricker is seeking his fourth PGA Tour Champions win and first senior major after tying for second at the Tradition last year. He splits time on the PGA Tour but won three times in seven starts last year on the 50-plus circuit.
After a hot second round, he summed up this one as “just hanging in there.”
“I struggled hitting it at times, didn’t feel very comfortable,” Stricker said. “I was proud of the way that I hung in there and gutted it out and salvaged a good round out of a round that could have got away from me.”
Charles Schwab Cup leader Scott McCarron was 3 over after a 72, but will retain his No. 1 spot after this weekend.
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