Ernie Els, Doug Barron share lead as Steve Stricker slips two back at Regions Tradition

Ernie Els, Doug Barron share lead as Steve Stricker slips two back at Regions Tradition

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Doug Barron shot a 6-under 66 for a share of the Regions Tradition lead with Ernie Els on Saturday, heading into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions’ first major of the season.

Els shot 70 with an eagle and a par-saving shot after sending the ball into the creek on No. 15 at Greystone. The World Golf Hall of Famer settled for par on the final hole, where Barron had birdied to catch up to him at 13-under 203. Padraig Harrington, two-time defending champion Steve Stricker and Charlie Wi are in pursuit.

“It was a tough day. We were kind of sizing each other up, myself and Steve,” Els said. “I made that great eagle on 2. I’m really finding it tough to read some of these putts. I made a soft bogey on 5 that really set me back.

“I kind of scrambled it around. I feel like I’m still playing pretty well.”

They were a shot ahead of Harrington, whose 69 included a double bogey on No. 11 after his tee shot landed out of bounds. But he rallied with a closing birdie, his fifth.

Stricker (73) and Wi (70) were two shots back. Stricker remained near the leaders in his bid to match Jack Nicklaus’ record four Tradition wins despite failing to make a single birdie. It’s his first time failing to card a round under par at the Tradition.

Els eagled the par-5 second hole before getting his first bogey of the tournament on No. 5. He saved par after his second shot on 15 went into the creek, hitting from the rough to within a few feet of the hole some 40 yards away. Els parred 17 after his birdie attempt from the bunker hit the flag stick.

A 19-time winner on the PGA Tour, Els is seeking his fourth victory on the 50-and-over circuit, with the latest being last year in the Hoag Classic.

Barron closed with his seventh birdie while his only bogey came on the third hole. He is seeking his first PGA Tour Champions win since the 2020 Shaw Charity Classic and third overall, while coming off a tie for second at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic.

But Barron knows he’s facing tough competition from better-known players like Stricker and Els.

“I don’t care who’s winning,” said Barron, who had one of his twin sisters on hand at Greystone. “So I’m just going to go out and do the best Doug Barron can do. I know what I can shoot. I can’t control all those other superstars.

“So I’ll just do the best I can do. I’m feeling good about my game, though. I will say that.”

Wi, who hasn’t won on the senior tour, made a long birdie putt to end his day.

K.J. Choi (69) and Kenny Perry (71) were 9 under, one ahead of Stewart Cink (70) and Steve Flesch (74).