PGA Tour Champions: Austin, Montgomerie and Clarke tied for SAS Championship lead

Darren Clarke jumped six spots up the leaderboard on Saturday to tie Colin Montgomerie and first-round leader Woody Austin for the lead at the SAS Championship. All three now sit at 9-under par going into Sunday’s final round.

Clarke was mostly solid on Friday, but a double-bogey on the par-4 sixth marred what was otherwise a competitive five-birdie effort. The 52-year-old from Northern Ireland cleaned things up during the second round, posting five birdies on the back nine and six total. With 15 international victories to his name, Clarke is looking for his first PGA Tour Champions win.

“I was playing okay sort of all day and I kept telling myself ‘just be patient’ and stupid old thing, I kept waiting for something to happen,” Clarke said. “The greens are so pure that the subtle breaks, you’ve got to hit it really close to make — you’re not going to make a lot of bombs here really from 20, 30 feet all day, so I just took wedges in my hand, hit it a little bit closer there towards the end.

“Made the most of it, which is nice.”

Montgomerie, 57, found himself T-4 after the first round. Bolstered by strong iron play, he shot five birdies and remained bogey-free for a Saturday 67 that propelled him three spots up the leaderboard. The golfers whom Montgomerie had been tied with — Kirk Triplett and Marco Dawson — faltered during round two. Respective scores of 70 and 71 meant that Triplett fell back five places to T-9 and Dawson 11 to T-15.

“I’ve been changing my swing,” revealed Montgomerie, owner of 42 international wins and seven Champions Tour wins to date. “I’ve lost a little weight and I put a little bit on again. American food, you can’t help it.

“I’ve been coming more inside on the backswing, or it feels like that, it might not look it on the screen, but it does definitely feel. So I’ve got a better launch, I’ve got a better trajectory, just the whole thing’s better than it was.”

Austin held ground against his surging opponents, although his second-round effort wasn’t as sharp as his opening-round 66. Two bogeys against five birdies left the 56-year old with a 3-under 69.

Also in the hunt are David Toms (United States), Bernhard Langer (Germany) and Vijay Singh (Fiji), all of whom are T-4 at 8 under. Toms, 53, carded six birdies against one bogey to move ahead three spots with a 67. He is looking for his second PGA Tour Champions victory.

The big movers, though, were Langer and Singh, who both rocketed 12 spots up the leaderboard. Langer, 63, got there by shooting 66 on the day — bettering his first-round performance by four strokes. He fired seven birdies against just one bogey, with four of those birdies coming on the back nine. Langer, a two-time Masters winner and an icon in the golf world, boasts 41 Champions Tour victories and 61 international titles.

Meanwhile, the 57-year old Singh shook off an early bogey on No. 4 to card a 66. He pulled it off in dramatic fashion with two eagles on the day: one on the par-5 seventh and another on the par-4 18th. Singh, the 2008 FedExCup Champion, has 34 PGA Tour wins and 22 international titles under his belt.

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