Stricker shot a 3-under 67 in a strong northerly breeze in Southern Hills for a one-shot lead over Alex Cejka, the senior newcomer who beat Stricker in the playoffs this month in the main Tradition areas in Alabama. .
Stricker was 6 under 204. Cejka shot 68.
Weir had 8 under 11 holes, then landed a double bogey on 12, starting a five-shot five-hole streak. The Canadian southpaw finished with a 74, leaving him three strokes behind Stricker, but still in the final group on Sunday.
Quadruple European Tour winner Cejka won his only PGA Tour event in 2015 when he won the Puerto Rico Open. He played his way onto the PGA Tour champions as a Monday qualifier and was a substitute in Alabama before entering the field and ultimately winning Tradition. He finished second at the Chubb Classic in April.
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“He’s playing really well,” Stricker said. “Yeah, I’ll have my hands full tomorrow. I mean he played really well and I’m going to have to take care of myself, my own game and hopefully a good score. I know the confidence level he has has to be high if he’s up there again this week. He started off as a qualifying Monday and won a major and he’s in contention here again this week, so it’s a great story. “
Cejka, a native of Czechoslovakia whose family fled the country to West Germany when he was 10, missed his first two holes, then landed four birdies and no bogey the rest of the way. He said he has seen many players in the past start the senior circuit with flying colors after turning 50.
“I’m riding the wave,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll ride it up a bit. I play well and I just want to play as long and as well as possible because eventually it will wear off. I mean, it’s normal, you know? But we’ll see what I can do next time, weeks, months, years, who knows.
Stricker, the 2021 Ryder Cup captain who went 2-0 as he played to a 54-hole lead on the senior circuit before losing to Cejka, played a solid end, netting five birdies against two bogeys. He hit his approach shot on the 10th hole to enter the beach, then pierced a bunker on the 16th par 4, 485 yards that played straight into the wind.
“I stole one over there,” Stricker said. “It’s a tough hole and you’re just trying to get a 4 there. . . It’s a tough place and it draws your attention to a lot of shots. It’s a great test of golf and I feel great about what I did today.
Weir pushed his tee shot to the left on the 12th par 4 behind a tree, struck, then missed the green to the right with a short iron and failed to get up and down for the double bogey. He let his third short stroke into a bunker at the 13th par 5 leading to another bogey, he pushed his tee shot on 15 and missed a 5 foot par save. His tee shot on 16 found a huge fairway bunker, which led to a layup and another miss.
“I was just a little behind in my game and it’s a tough golf course,” said Weir, the winner in Houston this month. “It’s a demanding course and it will bite you. And I had a little today in the back. I’m going to try to go over a few things here and try to have a good attitude, a good rest and get ready for tomorrow.
Beyond those of the final group, Tim Petrovic and KJ Choi were five to one under. Petrovic shot 68 and Choi 71. Jerry Kelly (69) and Stephen Leaney (71) were even tied.