CHAMP: Ernie Els, Steve Stricker share lead in Madison


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Ernie Els shot a blistering 6-under-par over the final seven holes Saturday to share the lead with Steve Stricker after two holes of the American Family Insurance Championship at Madison, Wis.

Els shot an 8-under 64 and Stricker carded a 66 as the duo have 9-under 135 totals after two trips around University Ridge Golf Course.

David Duval is in solo third at 137 after shooting 68. Tim O’Neal (68 on Saturday) and Jerry Kelly (69) are three shots back in a tie for fourth.

Els made three birdies on the front nine before a bogey at No. 10. He then got hot with birdies at Nos. 12-14, an eagle-3 at 16 and a birdie at 18 to close his round.

Els is looking for his second straight victory after prevailing at the Principal Charity Classic last week.

“When you’re playing well and you have confidence, you know, things happen,” Els said. “If I’m not winning, there might be a bit of doubt here and there, but when you’ve won, the hole feels a little bigger sometimes and a bit more comfortable than trying to search for it all the time.

“I’m definitely going off last week. I’ve been playing good for a month now, so I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other.”

Stricker, serving as tournament host, also finished strong with four straight birdies at holes No. 14-17.

He also had four birdies on the front nine and bogeys on No. 4 and No. 13.

Stricker’s round was three shots lower than his first and he credited his improvement in putting as the reason. He even had a session Friday night to eliminate some kinks.

“I went to the putting green last night, just a setup situation, kind of moved my weight around a little bit,” Stricker said. “I had noticed out on the course that I was getting my weight a little left and typically over the years and my career I’ve always been almost 60/40 on my right side so I was having a hard time getting through the putts, so I adjusted that.

“It was better today, I hit some nice putts, and could have made a couple more. As golfers we’re always trying to make as many as we can, but overall it was better.”

Duval had five birdies and one bogey (on No. 5) in his second straight solid round. Four of his birdies came on par-5 holes.

Duval’s strong play in Madison is a vast improvement over the last two years at this event. He tied for 54th in 2022 and 45th last year.

Kelly moved closer to the lead with an eagle on the par-4, No. 15. He also had three birdies and two bogeys.

O’Neal had a crazy start to the round. He had double-bogey on No. 1 and came back with an eagle on the par-5, No. 2 and a birdie on No. 3. He later had three straight birdies on Nos. 11-13 and had six overall. But he also bogeyed two of the last four holes, including No. 18.

–Field Level Media


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