AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Alex Cejka birdied two of the final three holes for a 6-under 64 and a two-stroke lead Thursday in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship.
Cejka birdied the par-3 seventh and par-4 ninth to cap a bogey-free round on Firestone Country Club’s South Course.
“I drove the ball well, which gives you a lot of chances when you’re in the fairway,” Cejka said. “I hit a lot of great iron shots where it gave me a lot of looks and putted well. So I drove it well, hit a lot of fairways, plus every time I kind of had a birdie chance, I take advantage.”
The 51-year-old Czech-born German is chasing his third senior major title after winning the Regions Tradition and Senior PGA last year.
“Every day is a little bit different,” Cejka said. “The rough is pretty severe. If you miss at some wrong spots here, it can be tough, but today was pretty flawless. It’s a pretty day, one of the few days where kind of everything is working — the short game and the putting and the driving. I’m very happy.”
David Toms was second, also closing on the front nine with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9.
Jerry Kelly and Ernie Els shot 67. Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steven Alker were at 68 with Rocco Mediate, Tim Petrovic, Shane Bertsch, Bob Estes, Cameron Beckman and Tom Gillis. Alker, with three victories, and Jimenez, with two, are the only multiple winners on the PGA Tour Champions this year.
Defending champion Steve Stricker opened with a 70.
The tournament is the second of three straight majors on the PGA Tour Champions schedule. Padraig Harrington won the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago at Saucon Valley. There will be another week off ahead of the Senior British Open at Gleneagles.
Harrington is not in the field. He went from the U.S. Senior Open to the Irish Open and next week is at St. Andrews for the British Open.