PHOENIX — Steven Alker began his PGA Tour Champions career as a Monday qualifier, the goal every week right in front of him: post top-10 finishes to keep playing.
Alker kept pulling it off until a win secured his full card. His path to winning the Charles Schwab Cup is just as clear.
Alker, the PGA Tour Champions points leader, shot his second straight bogey-free round at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Friday, a 7-under 64 that gave him a one-shot lead over Padraig Harrington.
“I know what I’ve got to do. The numbers are all there,” Alker said. “It’s kind of black and white. I just try and put myself in position to win a golf tournament. That’s big for me.”
Alker made seven birdies at Phoenix Country Club to reach 13 under through two rounds, keeping him comfortably in front of the only player who can overtake him for the Schwab Cup. Harrington also shot 64 and was 12 under, but he needs to win and have Alker finish outside the top five to win the PGA Tour Champions season championship.
“It seems that the Schwab Cup could be a bit of a long shot at this stage, but I’m very much in the tournament, and that’s what we’re going to focus on now,” Harrington said.
Alker had to make a 15-foot par putt on No. 17 to preserve a bogey-free 65 to tie for the lead in the opening round, but spent most of a balmy Friday afternoon in the desert hitting fairways and greens.
The 51-year-old opened the second round with consecutive birdies and added two more to turn in 4-under 32. Alker rolled in a birdie putt on the short par-4 11th and another on No. 15 after squeezing his tee shot on the par 3 between a tight pin and a bunker.
He added another birdie on the par-4 17th, but pulled his tee shot into the left rough on the par-5 18th. Alker hit his second shot over a strand of trees to the fairway and his third to 30 feet, but left the birdie putt short.
A disappointing finish, but Alker has some wiggle room headed into the weekend in his bid to go from PGA Tour journeyman to champion of the over-50 circuit.
“The course dried out a little bit today, played the ball down, so that was good and greens were rolling fantastic,” Alker said. “Putted nice. When you shoot 7 under, you normally putt pretty good.”
Harrington shot an opening 66 and reeled off four birdies in five holes to start his second round. The three-time major champion from Ireland added two more birdies before a three-putt bogey on the 15th.
Harrington birdied No. 17 and reached No. 18 in two, but left a a 30-foot eagle putt short, tapping in for birdie.
“I started as well as I could and I still can’t get away from him. Steve is doing a great job,” Harrington said. “I’m trying to mind my own business most of the time doing my thing out there and I’ve got another 36 holes to do that.”
Langer had two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, then birdied the par-4 11th. The 65-year-old German caught a tough break when his tee shot left on the par-4 12th left him with an awkward stance, leading to bogey.
Langer dropped in consecutive birdies on Nos. 13 and 14, but bogeyed No. 18 after an errant tee shot and a chunky pitch.