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Champions Tour (CHAMP)

Steven Alker leads Steve Flesch at first leg of Schwab Cup playoffs

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New Zealand’s Steven Alker posted a bogey-free, 9-under 63 Friday to take the first-round lead at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va.

It marked the PGA Tour Champions rookie’s lowest round since beginning to play the circuit in August, shortly after his 50th birthday. He leads Steve Flesch by one shot at the first leg of the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs.

“My game’s just coming around at the right time,” Alker said. “You’ve still got to play golf and shoot the scores. These guys, they’re good so you’ve got to shoot some good scores. It’s just a combination of game coming together and just really wanting to play out here.”

Alker started on the back nine at the Country Club of Virginia’s James River Course and made five birdies over his first nine holes before wrapping up with four more on the front nine.

Alker previously made his living on the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit populated with much younger golfers. In seven Champions starts, he has already earned six top-10 finishes.

“You know, my game was in good shape,” he said. “I stayed competitive on the Korn Ferry Tour and I think coming in, I was just kind of prepared, I think. Yeah, I felt good, but it’s just getting out here and trying to stay out here and I did that, which has been great.”

Flesch went 3 under on the front nine and pulled off a string of four birdies at Nos. 12-15 en route to his 8-under round.

“I’ve been playing great, 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 shoot 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.”

Bernhard Langer of Germany, Stephen Ames of Canada, Bob Estes, Doug Barron and Matt Gogel opened with rounds of 6-under 66 to form a tie for third.

Fan favorite John Daly withdrew midway through his round, with no reason made public.

After this tournament concludes Sunday, only the top 54 players in the Charles Schwab Cup standings will advance to the second week of the playoffs. Alker started the week 55th and is projected to move well into the top 54 with a victory. Langer leads the playoff race entering this week.

–Field Level Media

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