DULUTH, Ga. (AP) — Jay Haas nearly shot his age Friday to take the lead into a 36-hole Saturday finish in the PGA Tour Champions’ Mitsubishi Electric Classic.
The 64-year-old Haas birdied the final two holes in breezy conditions at TPC Sugarloaf for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke lead over Steve Flesch. Bernhard Langer shot 67, and Gene Sauers and Scott Parel followed at 68.
Facing a forecast of 1 1/2 inches of rain overnight Sunday and the threat of lightning Sunday, tournament officials decided to play both the second and third rounds Saturday.
“The guys were saying we’ve got to play 54, so this gives us that opportunity,” Haas said. “It will be a long day. Thankfully, we can get in carts. This is a long walking golf course. I’m pretty whipped today. I didn’t get in the cart today, but I’ll probably be in there a little bit tomorrow.”
Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles at the 2016 Toshiba Classic.
“I had a decent year last year, not what I wanted maybe, and then starting off this year I’ve been pretty poor,” Haas said. “Haven’t been 100 percent physically, but I’m feeling better.”
He birdied all four par-5 holes in a bogey-free round. The nine-time PGA Tour winner birdied four of the first six holes — the par-4 first and third and par-5 fourth and sixth. He added a birdie on the par-5 10th and closed with the birdies on the par-4 17th and par-5 18th.
“I hit the ball well, hit a lot of good iron shots,” Haas said. “I had four or five of them inside 10 feet. My distance control was really good. And I made some really nice putts and didn’t really struggle at all with long putting or anything. … I made a really nice one here at 18. It was a bonus there. Hit a beautiful 5-iron at 17 to about 3 feet.”
Flesh also birdied the final two holes in a bogey-free round.
“I hit it well and made putts,” Flesh said. “With the wind today it was a little confusing at times. I played conservatively where I had to and aggressively on a few holes. Birdied the last two to turn a good day into a great day.”
The four-time PGA Tour winner is winless in 21 senior starts since turning 50 last May. He was looking forward to the 36-hole day.
“Hey, I’d rather play 36 holes than play in rain,” Flesh said. “Some people don’t mind rain. I would take 40 mph wind over any rain. So, I’m glad we’re playing 36 tomorrow.”
Langer started on No. 10 and birdied the first three and five of the first seven. He played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. “It was difficult conditions with the breeze, especially last few holes,” Langer said.
The 60-year-old German star is seeking his first victory of the season and 37th on the senior tour.
“It’s going to be tough,” Langer said. “A lot of us are — we’re all old to some extent — and it’s going to be a very long day. This course is very demanding. It’s a lot of hills to walk. My knees were sore just now playing. I hate using carts, but I think I might have to utilize some of the carts to make it around 36 because it’s very demanding — physically demanding.”