Jay Haas had seven birdies to take the second-round lead at the First Tee Open but it was a save on the par-3 12th that made the difference.
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Haas pushed his tee shot 10 feet to the right of the green then left his approach 18 feet shy of the cup. Ready to settle for a bogey which would have dropped him back into the pack, Haas instead made the putt for par then kept rolling.
A 14-time winner on the Champions Tour but winless since 2009, Haas finished with a 7 under 65 and took a two-stroke lead over three other players Saturday.
”You just can’t miss that shot to the right when the pin’s in front right, and I did,” Haas said. ”To make that putt and keep the round going was huge.”
Haas made several big putts while recording the second-lowest score of the day at Pebble Beach. The 57-year-old had seven birdies, including three of the four par-5s, and played bogey free to get to 11 under 133.
Mark Brooks (64), Bobby Clampett (66) and Brad Bryant (68) are at 135. First-round leader Russ Cochran (71) is among five players tied at 136.
Defending tournament champion Ted Schulz had a 67 and is tied for 17th at 140.
Haas’ 65 was in stark contrast to his opening round when he birdied six of the first nine holes to take an early lead before falling back with a pair of bogeys on the back nine.
This time he started well and finished just as strong while playing in the same foursome as actor/director Clint Eastwood. That matched his best round ever in this tournament and has Haas atop the leaderboard seeking his first win since taking the Senior Players Championship in 2009.
”I didn’t feel like I was done,” Haas said. ”I didn’t feel like at 57 I’m ready to be put to pasture. It’s been frustrating but I’ve gotten what I’ve deserved. (Winning) this would be very sweet.”
Haas birdied five of the first eight holes, then had another on No. 11 to get to 6 under. After saving par on No. 12, Haas stayed one stroke ahead of the pack until closing with another birdie on No. 18.
Brooks, a seven-time PGA winner in his first year on the Champions Tour, had the day’s best round with his 64 while playing at Del Monte. That included seven birdies, a bogey and an eagle on the par-4, 15th.
”I scored pretty well and I got off to a good start, and that made a big difference for a change,” Brooks said. ”The back nine, I didn’t drive it too well but I made a couple of birdies. I like my position.”
Clampett, who has never won on the Champions Tour, had eight birdies and overcame bogeys on Nos. 3 and 12 and shared the lead with Bryant and Brooks until Haas’ charge late in the afternoon.
Bryant, who was in a logjam for second after the first round, overcame a slow start and birdied three of his final eight holes for a 68.
Like Haas, Brooks and Clampett, Bryant has yet to win on tour this year. His last win came at the U.S. Senior Open in 2007.
”Man, it would be big for me to win at the bowling alley,” Bryant joked.
Cochran led the first round by one stroke after a 65 at Pebble Beach but had only three birdies and two bogeys on the shorter course at Del Monte.
Mark Calcavecchia had seven birdies at Del Monte but tempered his round with five bogeys and dropped five shots off the pace at 138.