Alker leads PGA Tour Champions’ playoff opener

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RICHMOND, Va. — Steven Alker shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, the first of three PGA Tour Champions playoff events.

Alker had a bogey-free round on The Country Club of Virginia’s James River Course, making nine birdies in a 12-hole stretch from No. 12 to No. 5. The 50-year-old New Zealander is 55th in the season standings.

“It’s a new chapter for me coming from Korn Ferry and playing with those young guys — big, strong, hitting it forever,” Alker said. “So in places I was competitive out there, but I’m kind of maybe a little more competitive out here. My game’s just coming around at the right time. You’ve still got to play golf and shoot the scores.”

Steve Flesch is a stroke back. He closed with a birdie on the par-4 18th.

“I’ve been putting great and I’m not overthinking anything, which is the magic deal,” Flesch said. “I literally am playing golf like I played basketball. When I got the ball, I just shot it, and that’s how I’m playing golf. I’m taking like one look with the putter and I’m going. I’m not giving myself any time to clutter up my melon.”

Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer, the 2017 winner in Richmond, was three strokes back at 66 with Bob Estes, Stephen Ames, Doug Barron and Matt Gogel.

Jim Furyk opened with a 69.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson shot 71, making a double bogey on the par-3 fourth. He won the Constellation Furyk & Friends two weeks ago in Florida for his third senior victory in four career starts.

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