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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — The Odd Couple, golfers Scott McCarron and Stephen Ames, they are not.
But the housemates for this week’s 82nd Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores do have something in common – a share of the 36-hole lead at 8-under 134 after shooting matching 5-under 66s in Friday’s second round which started with rain and wind and only got colder as the day progressed.
“It was crazy,” said 56-year-old McCarron, who has 11 PGA Tour Champions victories including the 2017 Senior Players major title. “Weather (when) we teed off … was not too bad. (It was) 60 (degrees) and then we got to the third hole, and I think it dropped 10 or 15 degrees.”
Nevertheless, McCarron made eight birdies in his round, five for an incoming 30 on the back nine of the 6,852-yard Jack Nicklaus design that sits near Lake Michigan. The 58-year-old Ames, who made a double bogey for the second straight day, made six birdies over his final 11 holes despite the deteriorating conditions.
“It’s not my cup of tea,” Ames said. “I’m not a fan of the cold weather even though I lived in Canada. But I never went out and played golf in this.”
McCarron is coming off major reconstructive surgery of his left ankle last August and has just one Top 25 finish this season in nine events, a tie for 16th at the Regions Tradition major on May 15 that was won by Steve Stricker, who is not playing this week after testing positive for COVID.
“It’s been a slow process,” McCarron said about his surgery. “I knew it would be. It’s been a struggle, but the last couple of weeks it’s gotten better.”
Ames, meanwhile, is 11th on the money list with $406,237 in earnings thanks to four Top 10 finishes.
“Putting has been a bit of an issue the last six weeks I’ve played,” Ames said after making a 25-foot birdie for his final birdie at the 16th. “I’ve had opportunities, but I couldn’t make putts to close things out.”
McCarron and Ames were two strokes ahead of four golfers – 64-year-old World Golf Hall of Fame member Bernhard Langer of Germany, who shot a second straight 68, Florida’s Brian Gay (68), Canada’s Mike Weir (71) and PGA Tour Champions rookie sensation Steven Alker (72) of New Zealand.
Senior PGA Championship: Germany’s Bernhard Langer has priorities in order for Senior PGA event in Michigan
Langer, a two-time Masters champion who has won the most senior majors (11) since turning 50, made four birdies, three of them on Harbor Shores’ par-5 holes at 9, 10 and 15, to offset a bogey at the 436-yard seventh hole where the windswept small green overlooks Lake Michigan.
“It was cold today, much colder, and the ball just went nowhere at times,” Langer said. “It’s nice to go below 70 on a day like this because it’s not easy. The course played a lot longer.”
Alker, who eagled his first hole of the tournament (the par-5 10th) Thursday by draining a 25-foot downhill putt, bogeyed the first hole and the last Friday with just birdie in between. “It was a grinding day,” said Alker, who has two victories and almost $1.2 million this season. “Obviously I didn’t hit it as close as yesterday … couldn’t reach the par-5s.”
After surrendering 56 sub-par rounds to the 156-player field in Thursday’s opening round, Harbor Shores fought back Friday with plenty of help from Mother Nature. Only 17 golfers shot under-par Friday.
The best round of the afternoon, a 2-under 69, belonged to defending champion Alex Cejka, who was in a group at 5-under 137 with morning golfers multi-major champion Ernie Els (70) of South Africa, Rod Pampling (68) of Australia and Americans Paul Goydos (68) and Tracy Phillips (68), one of 39 club professionals playing this week.
Cejka started his Friday afternoon round at the par-5 10th hole, made birdie at the par-3 11th and then finished the nine with back-to-back bogeys at 17 and 18. But he made four birdies on Harbor Shores’ front side.
“I grinded on (his) back nine,” Cejka said. “It was really, really tough, but I hit some good shots, made some good putts, made some clutch up-and-downs.”
A total of 71 golfers made the 36-hole cut which came at three-over 145.
He just grinds
Langer, who has 43 PGA Tour Champions victories and won 11 major championships since turning 50, has himself again in the hunt for a victory at Harbor Shores after a second-straight, three-under 68 in different scoring conditions. Friday’s rain and winds from the northwest across Lake Michigan mystified many in the field, but the 64-year-old Langer was not among them. He had four birdies, three on par-5 holes.
“The conditions were pretty rough,” Langer said. “It was cold today, much colder, and the ball just went nowhere at times.”
The two-time Masters champion (1985 and 1993) also said the weather forecasts he has received the first two days have not been correct. “Yesterday (Thursday) they were wrong, and today they were wrong again,” he laughed. “It was nice to go below 70 on a day like this because it was not easy.”
In his previous three visits here – Langer did not play in the event in 2018 because of his son’s graduation from high school – he’s finished tied for fourth in 2012 (to champion Roger Chapman of England), tied for third in 2014 (to champion Colin Montgomerie) and tied for third in 2016 (to champ Rocco Mediate).
Montgomerie followed his opening two-under 69 with a 71 and was at two-under 140, one stroke ahead of a group at 141 that included 2018 champion Paul Broadhurst, who managed a two-under 69 in Friday’s crazy conditions.
When he won in 2014, Montgomerie shot 13-under 271 to win. Broadhurst shot 19-under 265 to win in 2018, matching 2016 champion Rocco Mediate’s winning score.
Chapman, who opened with a one-under 70 Thursday was two-over for the day midway through Friday’s round and was at one-over. The projected 36-hole cut was expected to be three-over.
Down the road
Mediate, who opened with a three-over 74 Thursday, won’t be among those who make the cut as he was one of four golfers who no-carded Friday. A wrist injury caused his withdraw. John Daly, the 1991 PGA champion at Crooked Stick who shot 72 Thursday, withdrew with knee problems. Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA champ who opened with a 75, and Jonathan Kaye (78) also started Friday’s play but withdrew.