Madison’s Steve Stricker takes 2-stroke lead in first PGA Tour Champions major of the year
That 4:30 a.m. wakeup call didn’t slow down Steve Stricker.
Stricker completed a 4-under 68 in the delayed first round and shot a season-best 64 in the second Friday to take a two-stroke lead in the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors, in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Madison resident, a three-time winner on the 50-and-over tour after winning 12 times on the PGA Tour, had five holes left Thursday when play was suspended because of storms.
David Toms was second after his second bogey-free 67 on Greystone’s Founders Course.
Most players had to finish the first round in the morning after bad weather halted play at midday Thursday, leading to the early start.
“It’s a little uncomfortable because we’re usually not doing that on the Champions Tour,” said Stricker, who had five birdies on his first nine holes. “It’s usually those 11 (a.m.) to 1 (p.m.) tee times, somewhere in there. So those early mornings are not fun sometimes.”
This one might have been an exception — for Stricker at least. He has only competed in four other senior events this year while splitting time on the PGA Tour. He tied for second at the Tradition last year and it’s the only senior major championship he has played in.
His best finish in a PGA Tour major was second to Vijay Singh in the 1998 PGA Championship.
Toms birdied five of his last nine holes. He and Stricker both started on No. 10 and Toms was even par at the turn after a bogey and birdie. The 2018 U.S. Senior Open winner got plenty of chances to observe Stricker’s putting.
“I was watching. We played slow enough that I saw at least every putt that he made,” Toms said. “We didn’t see too many shots into the greens, so I knew he was playing well. I figured they were out there if he was doing it, so I just tried to stay close. I rallied my last nine holes, made five birdies and got within striking distance anyway.”
First-round leader Glen Day followed his opening 64 with an even-par 72 to drop four strokes back.
Billy Andrade was three strokes behind Stricker and two-time champion Bernhard Langer matched Day at four back. Andrade and Langer both shot second-round 67s.
An eagle on No. 15 highlighted Scott Parel’s 66 that moved him within five shots from the lead.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez is six shots back after a 70. Madison’s Jerry Kelly (71-70) is nine shots back in a tie for 22nd place.
They’ll have an early two-tee start again Saturday with the leaders teeing off at 9 a.m.
Andrade was among those who was off the course before Thursday’s round was stopped.
“I thought it was amazing how dry it was (Friday),” he said. “I thought that for sure it was going to have a lot more casual water, kind of like last week in Houston where you’re dropping, trying to find dry land. This place has drained unbelievably. I couldn’t believe it.”
Sung Kang matched the Trinity Forest course record with a 10-under 61 on an unseasonably cool day to take the second-round lead at the Byron Nelson in Dallas.
Kang was 16 under after his round that included six birdies in a row. The 31-year-old South Korean who lives in North Texas had a four-stroke lead over playing partner Matt Every and Tyler Duncan.
Every had his second straight 65, and Duncan shot 66. Brooks Koepka, the world’s No. 3-ranked player, was fourth at 11 under after a 66.
Tony Romo, the CBS NFL analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and also a Trinity Forest member, was 8 over after a 74. He missed the cut, like he did in two other PGA Tour starts in the Dominican Republic, and tied for 148th in the event that began with 156 players.