Flesch leads Richmond Champions playoff event


RICHMOND, Va. — Steve Flesch birdied the par-4 18th hole for a 5-under 67 and a two-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer and Steven Alker on Saturday in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, the first of three PGA Tour Champions playoff events.

Flesch reached 13-under 131 with his second straight bogey-free round on The Country Club of Virginia’s James River Course. He has played the back nine in 9 under.

“I did a lot of the same stuff as yesterday,” Flesch said. “I didn’t get off to a quick start, I parred the first five, but then when I got to six, I made a nice birdie and played another great back nine today.”

The 54-year-old Flesch won the 2018 Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his lone senior title. He won four times on the PGA Tour.

“I’ve just been kind of playing this week like I have the last, I guess, two months,” Flesch said. “I’m not hitting shots I don’t feel comfortable hitting. I’m just kind of, I hate the term `playing within myself,′ but I’m just hitting shots I know I can pull off and I’m not taking unnecessary chances.”

Langer, the 64-year-old German star who leads the Charles Schwab Cup points standings, also had a 67. He won the Richmond event in 2017.

“The pins are tough and the greens are very firm,” Langer said. “So, it’s difficult to get the ball near the hole to stop when the pins are in the front, and when the pins are in the back, you don’t go over the back, so it’s a tricky situation.”

Alker, the 50-year-old New Zealander who had a one-stroke lead over Flesch after an opening 63, dropped back with a 70.

“I didn’t quite obviously putt as well,” Alker said. “Sixty-three, you’ve got to putt well, so it wasn’t quite there, but I didn’t give myself as many chances. Wedges weren’t as close. Kind of struggled on the back nine a little bit.”

Tim Petrovic (67) and Doug Barron (68) were 10 under, and Jeff Sluman (68) and Gene Sauers (68) followed at 8 under.

Jim Furyk was 7 under after a 68.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson closed with quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 ninth for a 74. He was tied for 49th at 1 over.

Mickelson won the Constellation Furyk and Friends two weeks ago in Florida for his third senior victory in four career starts.

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