Ernie Els birdied the final two holes to cap off a six-under 66 and take a one-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 the 16th, to move to 10-under 134 on the Founders Course at Greystone. The World Golf Hall of Famer is seeking his fourth PGA Tour Champions 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 Angel Jimenez, who was four 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-fives, I got the ball up and down for birdies.”
Defending champion Steve Stricker is two 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 Regions Tradition title.
Broadhurst closed out his 68 with a birdie on 18. 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 three shots back: Jerry Kelly (68), Joe Durant (67), Alex Cejka (68), Padraig Harrington (69) and Robert Karlsson, who matched Els’ 66.
Retief Goosen and David Frost were in a share of 50th on two-over for the tournament after rounds of 70 and 73 respectively.