Steve Stricker | 2022 Regions Tradition | Friday

Steve Stricker maintained a two-shot lead heading into the weekend in the Regions Tradition after a 4-under 68 in the second round Friday.

Steve Stricker had enough energy Thursday after the first round of the Regions Tradition to go to the range and hit some balls.

That was a good indication of how far he’s come since being hospitalized with a serious illness in November, which wound up sidelining him for months.

A better indication was that Stricker shot a 4-under 68 at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., to maintain his two-shot lead going into the third round … and wasn’t entirely satisfied.

“No,” he said when asked if he was as pleased with the 68 as he was with his first-round 65. “It’s three shots worse.”

The Madison golfer was at 11-under 133 through 36 holes, with Scott McCarron (65) and Padraig Harrington (66) tied for second at 135 and Ernie Els (68) another shot back.

“I’m looking at the big picture and that I played well again,” Stricker said. “I drove it better today than I did yesterday, believe it or not. So the score probably doesn’t reflect what I did yesterday, but all in all I feel good about what I did today.”

Stricker started on the back nine and opened his round with a birdie on No. 10. He added birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th holes to make the turn in 33, then birdied Nos. 2 and 4 to get to 5-under on the day. But he gave one stroke back with a three-putt bogey on the par-5 fifth and finished the round with four pars.

“I really had it going well again,” he said. “I birdied the par-3, No. 4, and got it to 5-under. Go to the next hole, it’s a par-5, and I end up three-putting. That kind of put a little skid to my round really quick. But all in all, I did a lot of really good things again. I played out of the fairway a lot and I gave myself some looks, so it was another good day.”

Stricker has an incredible record in the Regions Tradition, the first major championship on the 2022 PGA Tour Champions schedule. He won the tournament in 2019, finished runner-up in 2018 and 2021 and on Friday extended to 18 his streak of sub-par rounds in the event.

“It’s tough when you see Steve, this is a great course for him and he’s moving away this week,” Harrington said before Stricker completed his round. "I don’t know what he’ll finish at today, but he’ll be tough to catch this weekend.”

Still, Stricker knows the tournament will test his stamina because it’s 72 holes, rather than the standard three-round event on the PGA Tour Champions.

“This is a unique tournament because it’s four rounds and we’re not used to playing four rounds,” he said. “So it’s kind of more of a marathon. You’ve got to just keep plugging along. Normally, in a three-round tournament, today is a really important day. But knowing we have two more rounds, it’s a marathon, so you’ve got to just keep pacing yourself.

“My goal is to go out there and do what I’ve been doing each and every day and play smart, put it in the fairway and go from there. I’m not really looking at the leaderboard and if I have a huge lead or not, or a lead at all. I’m just trying to go out and do the things that I know I’m capable of doing.”

Since returning to competition in April after a six-month absence, Stricker has never been out of the top 10, covering eight rounds in three tournaments. He was T-1, T-1, T-2 in the Insperity Invitational, T-4, T-8, T-10 in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic and now has been in the lead after both rounds of the Region Tradition.

Jerry Kelly of Madison bounced back from his first-round 74 with a 68, moved up 32 spots and was T-24 going into the third round.

John Daly was disqualified after the second round for failing to sign his scorecard. He had gotten to 8-under for the tournament before making double-bogeys on his 16th and 18th holes.

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