Aoki Leads Big Names Lurk
Unlike last year, when Hale Irwin tallied a 17-under-par winning score at Saucon Valley, only one player is under par through 36 holes of the U.S Senior Open.
That player is Isao Aoki.
Aoki fired a 2-under-par 68 at Salem Country Club is secure a one-shot advantage entering weekend play in the Senior PGA Tours third major of the season.
Aoki stands at 1-under-par 139, the same number Bruce Fleisher posted to lead after day one. However, thanks to back-to-back bogeys on 17 and 18, Fleisher now resides in second place.
Fleishers 71 has him tied with Gil Morgan (70) at even-par. Larry Nelson (67) and Dana Quigley (70) are two back at 1-over.
Fleisher was one up entering the penultiamte hole Friday; but after a bogey at the 17th, he wanted to hit a 6-iron into the green at the 18th. Instead, he listened to his caddie, who suggested a 7-iron.
Both men were wrong. Fleisher came up two clubs short of the green and two-putted for bogey.
Jim Thorpe fired the round of the tournament, a 5-under-par 65 to tie Raymond Floyd (70), Jim Ahern (70) and Jim Colbert (67) for sixth place at 2-over.
Check out Thorpe's scorecard!
Thorpe, who finished second to Tom Watson in the Senior PGA Championship, was 12 strokes lower on Friday than he was in his opening round of 77.
A host of major talent is tied at 3-over. Tom Kite (70), Irwin (70) and Jack Nicklaus (72) are all just four shots off the lead.
Kite made the turn in 5-under-par 30, only to come home in 5-over-par 40.
Check out Kite's scorecard!
Nicklaus was within two shots of the lead following birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th holes; however, the two-time Senior Open champion bogeyed holes 15-17 and narrowly escaped a fourth straight bogey at the home hole.
Aoki is seeking his first Senior victory in three years, and his first major title. He chased Nicklaus for 72 holes of the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol Golf Club, only to come up two shots short.
He may be most remembered in the states for holing a pitching wedge out of the rough from 128 yards for an eagle-3 on the 72nd hole to leapfrog Jack Renner and win the 1983 Hawaiian Open, his only PGA Tour title.
At 58, Aoki is trying to join Roberto DeVicenzo as the only player over the age of 55 to win the Senior Open. It would also be his first victory since the 1998 BellSouth Senior Classic.
So, why the resurgence this week?
I dont know, said Aoki. Maybe putting. Putting is okay.
Okay? Aoki has taken only 26 putts in each of the first two rounds.
Nicklaus dropped in a 50-foot putt for birdie at the 1st on Friday. After another birdie at the 3rd moved him to even par for the tournament, his up-and-down round took a turn for the worse. He bogeyed the 4th, 7th and 8th holes to fall to 3-over.
For the day, the 61-year-old recorded five birdies, six pars and seven bogeys.
Sixty-four players made the cut, which fell at 9-over-par 149.
Full-field scores from the 22nd U.S. Senior Open
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.