BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Defending champion Steve Stricker birdied the ultimate gap Friday for a 3-under 69 to maneuver right into a four-way tie for the lead midway via the Areas Custom.
Stricker joined Madison, Wisconsin, neighbor Jerry Kelly, Monday qualifier Alex Cejka and first-round chief Darren Clarke atop the leaderboard within the first of the PGA Tour Champions’ 5 majors.
Cejka, who made the sphere as the primary alternate when Jay Haas withdrew, adopted his opening 68 with a 69 at Greystone Golf & Nation Membership. Kelly had a 70 and Clarke shot 71 to get to 7 underneath.
“I am simply grateful for each begin I get,” stated Cejka, who was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in Germany. “I do know it is powerful. There’s solely 80 guys each week within the subject. So many elderly nice gamers who’re privileged out right here to play. And I bought to show myself. And if I’ve to return to Monday qualifier or do a high 10 to get me in subsequent week, I’ll do no matter [it] is critical to do.”
Stricker had 4 birdies and a bogey. In 2019, he pulled away for a 6-stroke win and his first senior main title. The occasion was canceled final yr.
“I did not do something dumb in the present day, simply hung round,” Stricker stated. “We’re solely midway dwelling, so we’ve a weekend to go.
“Somebody’s going to in all probability bust out of this pack, I might think about. The wind is meant to modify instructions for the weekend, so that may shake factor up in all probability just a little bit, too.”
Cejka tied for second on the Chubb Traditional after successful the Monday qualifier.
It was an enormous turnaround from a rocky PGA Tour Champions debut in February when he closed with a 78 in Arizona.
4 gamers had been 1 stroke off the lead, together with World Golf Corridor of Famer Ernie Els. He and Dicky Delight each carded their second straight 69. Stephen Ames had a 71.
Two-time champion Bernhard Langer’s 69 put him solely 2 strokes again in pursuit of his twelfth PGA Tour Champions main title.
Ames, who began on No. 10, held the lead going into the ultimate two holes. He fell again with a double bogey on the par-4 eighth gap after making just one bogey on the primary 34.
“Scoring was actually powerful in the present day, with the wind blowing round and stuff like that,” Ames stated. “However I had an unlucky break on 8, the place my ball ended up on high of a type of acorns and it ricocheted and made double.”
Delight, who lives about an hour away in Tuscaloosa, hasn’t completed higher than twelfth in 9 PGA Tour Champions occasions.
He cycled via an adventurous spherical to maneuver into rivalry. Delight, son of former College of Alabama golf coach Dick Delight, had 4 bogeys and 5 birdies.
He sandwiched two of the bogeys round an eagle on the par-5 No. 2 gap and completed with one other misfire. Delight had struggled on the PGA Tour’s developmental Korn Ferry Tour in 2019, ending 62nd in the one match he accomplished and incomes $1,588.
“I want to chop out the bogeys,” Delight stated. “I have to play just a little bit extra constant.”