Steve Stricker fired a course-record 60 to surge into the lead after two rounds of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on Friday in Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii.
Stricker made 12 birdies without a bogey in the fair conditions at Hualalai Resort Golf Club, flirting with what could have been the second round of 59 in PGA Tour Champions history.
The 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup captain settled for shooting 16-under 128 through two days of competition, two better than Germany’s Alex Cejka. The tournament ends Saturday.
Stricker was 11 under through 15 holes before parring Nos. 16 and 17, all but ensuring the record books would stay out of reach.
“You know, 59 was definitely on my mind. I was trying to give myself some opportunities,” Stricker told Golf Channel. “No. 16 was a pin that fits my eye, but it’s close to the bunker, it’s close to the lava. … I was trying to be aggressive, I was trying to shoot that magical number. So it was fun, it was a lot of fun.”
After improving on his opening-round 68, Stricker doesn’t have much room to rest on his laurels.
“The weather is so pure, the course is so pure and conditions, it’s all so nice,” he said. “There’s going to be guys that are going to freewheel it and who knows, I may only have tied for the lead or a one-shot lead, who knows by the time it’s all said and done.”
Cejka shot a bogey-free 64, with six of his eight birdies coming on the back nine.
“We see it every year, he wins four, five tournaments,” Cejka said of Stricker. “… It’s going to be tough to catch him. I’ve just got to go out there and shoot low and we’ll see what happens.”
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, a co-leader after the first round, is in third at 13 under after a 66 Friday. Jerry Kelly (64), Ken Tanigawa (65), Justin Leonard (67), Germany’s Bernhard Langer (66) and Canadian Mike Weir (67) are tied for fourth at 11 under.