BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — 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.
Stricker, 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 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 Day 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 was six shots back after a 70.
They’ll have an early two-tee start against 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.”
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