Tue, 26 Sep 2023

Lightning temporarily delayed the first round of the Principal Charity Classic, but did not slow Steve Stricker, who opened with a bogey-free 64 on Friday in pursuit of his third consecutive victory on the PGA Tour Champions.

Stricker is at 8 under, two shots ahead of a trio of players, includingthe past two champions, Jerry Kelly (2022) and Stephen Ames (2021) of Canada, at Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa.

After six birdies and one eagle, on the par-5 No. 15, Stricker had his 50th straight round of par or better on the tour, extending his all-time record dating back to 2022.

He was asked afterward in the media session if he is "in the zone."

"I have no idea what that zone is," said Stricker, 56. "I've got my head down, I'm just trying to hit the next shot as good as I can and go from there. I'm really in a good spot mentally I think more than anything. I'm just concentrating. I want to play well, I want to get up there and try to win. I'm grinding and trying to do that."

Stricker is coming off of victories at back-to-back senior majors, the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., on May 14 and the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship last weekend in Frisco, Texas.

"After last week I went home for a couple of days, (I) didn't touch a club," he said. "I've been kind of getting away from the game, too. Even though I've been playing a lot, I've been taking a good two, sometimes all the three days prior to the next event off and then feeling pretty fresh and ready to go again come tournament time again, and that was no different this week."

A victory for Stricker this week would make the 10th occasion a golfer has won three straight starts on the PGA Tour Champions. He would be the first to do it twice, having won three in a row at the Stanford International on Sept. 18, 2022; the Constellation Furyk Friends on Oct. 9, 2022; and the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on Jan. 21.

Kelly, like Stricker is 56, and on Friday was also bogey free. He carded six birdies at Nos. 2, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 12.

The weather delay of 1 hour and 34 minutes in the afternoon didn't help him, he acknowledged. He concluded his round with six straight pars.

"No, I can't wind it back up," Kelly said. "I tried not to eat too much, and I didn't. I tried to go to the trailer and stretch, but I'm an adrenaline guy and I couldn't find that adrenaline coming back out, I was just kind of blah. It is what it is."

Rod Pampling of Australia moved into a tie for second at 6 under with a 66 -- tying his low round of the season. The 53-year-old started on the back nine and birdied Nos. 11, 12, 15, 5, 8 and 9.

Ames opened with a birdie at No. 1 and added five more at Nos. 7, 8, 13, 17 and 18.

Five players are tied for fifth after one round with each shooting a 5-under 67 -- Americans Tim Herron and Steve Flesch, Mark Hensby of Australia, Fiji's Vijay Singh and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez.

--Field Level Media

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