BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Ernie Els birdied the final two holes to cap off a 6-under 66 and take a 1-stroke lead over Paul Broadhurst on Friday in the second round of the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors.
Els birdied three of the final four holes, marred by his lone bogey of the day on No. 16, to move to 10-under 134 on the Founders Course at Greystone. The World Golf Hall of Famer is seeking his fourth senior tour victory and second of the year.
A grinning Els mimicked sheathing a sword with his club after his final putt, the familiar celebration of playing partner Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who was 4 shots back after a 68.
“It’s all about managing your game, managing your game to a golf course,” Els said. “I’ve played here quite a few times and I enjoy it. Today was a little soft, so I felt that if you’re on your game you can really get aggressive with your iron shots. So I did that.
“I didn’t hit too many very close shots but I made some good putts and then the par-5s I got the ball up and down for birdies.”
Defending champion Steve Stricker is 2 shots back after his second straight 68, tied with first-round co-leader Timothy O’Neal, who had a 69. Stricker, the Charles Schwab Cup points leader, is chasing his fifth PGA Tour Champions major and third Tradition title.
Stricker made a long birdie putt on No. 16. On the par-5 18th, his second shot hit a cart path and bounced into a fan, settling in the rough on a downslope. He got up and down from there for birdie.
“That could have gotten away from me real easily and gone in the water, so I was just trying to give myself a good look at it,” he said. “It wasn’t the spot to be, for sure. But escaped with a birdie.”
Broadhurst closed out his 68 with a birdie on 18.
“I probably went into [Thursday’s] round with my confidence the lowest it has been all season,” he said. “Nothing has really been happening. It’s been a little bit of a trying last month or so, I lost my mother-in-law, and my dad has been in the hospital battling injuries, so it has just been a pretty poor four weeks.
“But it’s been a nice first two rounds.”
He was looking forward to joining Els in the final group on Saturday.
“I’ve known him since he was about 15 or 16,” Broadhurst said. “We’ve played amateur golf, junior golf, go way back, so it’s always a privilege to play with him.”
Five players were 3 shots back: Jerry Kelly (68), Joe Durant (67), Alex Cejka (68), Padraig Harrington (69) and Robert Karlsson, who matched Els’ 66.
It was another frustrating day for two-time champion Bernhard Langer, who is trying to break a tie with Hale Irwin for the PGA Tour Champions record of 45 victories and win his 12th senior major.
The 65-year-old Langer threw a ball into the trees for a second straight day, this time after a bogey on the par-4 sixth, when he also flung his putter onto the ground. He shot 72 and was 7 shots off the lead.
First-round co-leader Billy Andrade was bogey-free through his first 29 holes but dropped 4 shots on his second nine to shoot 74 and fall 7 shots back.