BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Two-time defending champion Steve Stricker birdied the final two holes for a 7-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Ernie Els on Friday after the second round of the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors.

Stricker, who has won three of the last four times at Greystone, had four birdies and a pair of bogeys over the first six holes before overtaking Els at the end. A six-time winner last year, he’s seeking his first this season and got his wish of being in the final group for what he predicted “should be a fun weekend.”

Stricker said he’s not dwelling on the chance for a three-peat.

“I enjoy it here. I feel good going around here,” he said. “I’m just trying to, you know, that old cliche of just taking one shot, one hole at a time kind of thing. So continue that with (Saturday).”

A World Golf Hall of Famer, Els shot a 68 in the second round. He was part of a six-way tie for first upon Round 1’s completion earlier in the day after play was halted because of bad weather Thursday.

Els had four birdies and still hasn’t had a bogey over the first 36 holes to stay up with Stricker.

“Steve Stricker is obviously the king around here at the moment,” Els said. “He’s won three or four times. He’s got the tournament record so probably playing with him (Saturday) so I need to keep the pace up with Steve and try and make him work hard for this one. He’s always got a lot of momentum on this course, but at least we’re heading in a good direction.”

Steve Flesch, who had one bogey, moved to 10 under with a birdie on 18 for a 69. He is a four-time winner on the 50-and-over circuit but hasn’t finished better than 25th in seven events this year.

“I tried to be patient with how the year has been going on, but the golf hasn’t been as bad as maybe where I am on the Schwab Cup list indicates,” said Flesch, who came in ranked 65th. “So maybe this will be a nice kickstart for me to get my year going a little bit, but I’m just I’m just glad I’ve kind of played two decent rounds and heading into the weekend with a chance.”

Charlie Wi and Padraig Harrington were 9 under. Wi shot a 69, making two bogeys on par 5s but closing on No. 18 with his fifth birdie of the round. The South Korean has two runner-up finishes but no victories in 33 PGA Tour Champions events.

Harrington had a more up and down day, overcoming four bogeys for a 70.

Kenny Perry (71) and Marco Dawson (70) were four shots back.

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