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Steven Alker leads by one over Padraig Harrington at Charles Schwab Cup Championship

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Daily Wrap Up

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    Steven Alker takes the lead by one at Charles Schwab Cup Championship

    The two men atop the season-long Charles Schwab Cup standings are threatening to turn the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship into a duel.

    First-round co-leader Steven Alker shot a 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Padraig Harrington, who fashioned a 64 of his own. Their scores tied for low round of the day at Phoenix Country Club and put them in Saturday’s final pairing.

    No one is within two shots of Harrington, who sits at 12 under Retief Goosen and Brian Gay are tied for third at 10 under. Goosen was the other player to shoot 64 on Friday. Gay shot 65.

    Alker, 51, had seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday. He has yet to bogey through 36 holes and sits at 13 under.

    Harrington, 51, posted eight birdies and one bogey. The Irishman came up about a foot short on a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th to tie Alker.

    Alker will win the Schwab Cup with a top-five finish. Harrington must win the tournament and hope Alker somehow falters.

    It at least appears unlikely. Alker has 17 top 10s in 22 events during 2022 including four wins, which explains his firm grip on the Schwab Cup. After the round, Harrington told The Golf Channel he knew he had his work cut out for him because Alker was “relentless.”

    He elaborated in his post-round news conference.

    “Look, he’s playing very well,” Harrington said. “I played with him every week in the Playoffs at this stage and he’s not backing down. He won one of the Playoffs (the Dominion Energy Charity Classic), he’s finishing the season really strong. He’s not limping home in any shape or form. He started great, but he's finishing very strong. You couldn’t begrudge him where he is at the moment, you couldn’t begrudge him winning this outright, but I’ll try and do that the best I can.”

    Alker, who makes his him in nearby Fountain Hills, has said this week that he’s enjoying playing in front of family and friends.

    “I was a little nervous on Thursday teeing off, but it’s good to have those butterflies to start with,” Alker told The Golf Channel. “I’m comfortable out there, hitting the ball great, driving it well. Giving myself a lot of chances.

    “There’s no need to be nervous. I’ve had a bull’s eye on my back for six months. I’m just gonna try to keep the pedal to the metal and keep making birdies.”

    Stephen Ames, who shared the first-round lead with Alker and John Huston, and Miguel Angel Jimenez are tied for fifth at 9 under.

    Huston shot an even-par 71 to fall off the pace.

    The Charles Schwab Cup Championship is a rare 72-hole event on PGA TOUR Champions. The only other tournaments contested over 72 holes instead of 54 are the five majors.