Miguel Angel Jimenez and Gene Sauers were tied atop the leaderboard at the midway point of the Regions Tradition, the year’s first major. Each sat at 11 under, two shots clear of the field.
Jimenez continued his stellar play, seizing the lead unto himself with a bogey-free 66 that put him at 17 under. He has only one bogey all week and will take a three-shot lead into the final round.
Sauers faltered a bit, shooting a 2-under 70 to fall back into a tie for third at 13 under with Kevin Sutherland and Joe Durant.
Several of the biggest names on PGA TOUR Champions put themselves in position on moving day for a final-round charge at Jimenez.
The biggest mover was Brandt Jobe, one of five players (including Jimenez) to card a 6-under 66 and ride the elevator up the leaderboard. His 66 vaulted him 28 spots into a tie for 22nd at 6 under. Jobe had seven birdies and could have gone lower were it not for a bogey on the par-5 15th, a hole he had birdied on Friday.
The second-biggest jump overall was recorded by two-time Regions Tradition defending champion Bernhard Langer. Another of the players to fire a 66, the German climbed from T-39 to T-13 at 8 under through three rounds. Langer was even par for his third round through 10 holes, but he played the final eight holes in 6 under, including an eagle on the par-5 13th.
The other 66s were turned in by Rocco Mediate, who cruised into a tie for sixth (up 20 spots), and Duffy Waldorf, who moved from 32nd into solo 12th. It was Waldorf’s lowest round of 2018; he has yet to post a top 10 this year after six such finishes in 2017.
Steve Stricker turned in the low round of the day, a 7-under 65 that moved him into solo second at 14 under. His round was jump-started by an eagle-2 on the par-4 eighth when he holed a 9-iron from 157 yards. He will enter the final round three shots behind Jimenez as he seeks his third PGA TOUR Champions win this season and his first major.BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) — Miguel Angel Jimenez wasn’t about to change his evening plans even with a shot at winning his first senior major championship.
Jimenez shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the Regions Tradition and planned to relax with cocktails and a cigar.
“I think I’m going to do exactly the same thing I did (Friday) night,” he said. “I’m going to have a margarita as an aperitif, and then I’m going to have a nice bottle of Rioja (wine) and smoke a big fat cigar.”
Jimenez birdied the final hole to reach 17-under 199 at Greystone Golf & Country Club, matching Gil Morgan’s 54-hole Tradition record set in 1997. Steve Stricker was second in the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors.
Jimenez has six top-five finishes in senior majors but is seeking his first victory. The Spaniard has four PGA Tour Champions titles.
Jimenez got his fourth birdie over the final nine holes on No. 18 after caroming his approach shot off the grandstands and back to about 15 feet from the hole. That set up a two-putt for birdie.
Stricker eagled the par-4 eighth in a 65. He estimated his eagle was about 158 yards with a 9-iron, and he didn’t get to watch it go in.
“It was kind of over a little knob, a bunker that we couldn’t see the green,” he said. “And then birdied 9, so that two-hole stretch kind of really got my momentum going, made the turn in 4 under instead of maybe 2 or something like that.”
Kevin Sutherland, Joe Durant and Gene Sauers were four shots back. Durant shot 67, Sutherland 68, and Sauers 70.
Sauers had shared the second-round lead with Jimenez. He was a shot back before a double bogey on No. 15 when his approach shot went into the woods right of the fairway and he wound up three-putting.
Sauers had opened with his first bogey of the tournament on No. 1 but then started a run of five straight birdies on the 10th hole.
Durant closed with his second eagle of the round on No. 18.
“I got really lucky because I pulled my second shot, and I didn’t think it would carry the water to be quite honest, but it did,” Durant said. “And I took advantage and made a good putt.”
Durant also had an eagle on the second hole and one birdie with no bogeys. He eagled No. 18 in the first round as well.
Sutherland had four birdies and a bogey over the final nine holes. He closed with a birdie.
Stricker wound up with five birdies and a bogey and his 28th consecutive round under par, the fourth longest streak in Tour history.
Stricker already has two wins and is second in the points standings despite playing in only four other tournaments.He’ll be chasing Jimenez, whose potential eagle on No. 13 was on target but hit the flag to set up a tap-in for birdie.
Jimenez birdied on par-3 No. 14 from the edge of the green after just clearing the bunker. Those kind of shots helped him have an even better time on the course than usual.
“Of course, you cannot beat this,” Jimenez said. “Look at our office. Beautiful sunshine, nice grass, nice golf course, nice people around, you know. You can’t beat this, really. I enjoy it.
“I always tend to enjoy myself on the golf course. That’s the main thing, that you are happy.”
Two-time defending champion Bernhard Langer shot a 66 but is still nine shots back. He had four birdies, an eagle and a bogey on the first nine holes to move to 8 under.
Langer came in seeking to become the first to win three straight since the Tradition started in 1989.
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