Sauers ties course record to lead MGRC after 2 rounds

Gene Sauers waves to the crowd after sinking a putt on Hole #9 at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak, Saturday, April 1, 2017.
Gene Sauers waves to the crowd after sinking a putt on Hole #9 at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak, Saturday, April 1, 2017.

Gene Sauers shot a 9-under 63 to tie the Fallen Oak course record Saturday, while also grabbing the second-round lead of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Fred Couples previously held the course record all alone after shooting a 63 in the first round of the 2012 tournament.

Still, Sauers’ lead is only one stroke after he surged to 12-under through two rounds. Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez shot a 6-under 66 and sits at 11-under. Glen Day and Joe Durant are tied for third at 9-under while Rod Spittle is fifth at 8-under. Day made a hole in one Saturday.

Bernhard Langer, Scott Dunlap, Kenny Perry and Jay Haas all sit at 7-under, five off Sauers’ lead.

“Early in the week I wasn’t hitting the ball very well,’’ Sauers said. “I got a new caddy and I just started slowing everything down and I started hitting it solid. I made an eagle on No. 6.

“I made the putts I was supposed to.

“I hit driver and 3-wood (on No. 6), and I had a 35- or 40-footer. It was going up the hill and I knew it was going to be slow so I made sure I hit it. It went in, thank goodness.’’

Sauers jumped into contention by shooting 7-under on the front nine. He made birdies on Nos. 1, 2, 4, 7, 9 and an eagle on No.6. After a bogey on No. 10, he birdied Nos. 12, 13 and 16 and narrowly missed a birdie on 18.

Sauers won the Senior Open last year at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.

Meanwhile, Jimenez stayed in the hunt to defend his title at Fallen Oak Golf Club. He made four birdies and an eagle on No. 6 to go with no bogeys Saturday.

“I’m trying to defend the best I can,’’ said Jimenez. “I played well today and very solid. I was consistent all day. I made all the par-5s in two strokes.’’

In all, he birdied two of the four par-5s (the 1st and 15th holes), eagled one (No. 6) and parred the other (No. 13).

Langer, who ranks second on the Charles Schwab Cup money list, moved into contention by shooting a 6-under 66. He finished the day at 7-under for two rounds and is in position to make a run Sunday.

“I played solid – I drove it better today,’’ Langer said. “I tried a new driver shaft (Friday) that didn’t work so I went back to what I was used to. What was really good today was the short game. I got up and down a couple of times out of the bunker and I putted pretty good. Otherwise, I didn’t make many mistakes.’’

Langer made six birdies – at Nos. 1, 3, 6, 12, 13 and 18 – and no bogeys. He also made a specutacular sand save at No. 9 and converted his par.

“On 18, I hit a beautiful 5-iron in there right next to the hole,’’ Langer said. “There is a bit of golf to go. I’d have to play extremely well (Sunday) to (win) because there are a lot of guys between me and the leader. It would take something special but maybe it will happen.’’

Day made a hole in one on the 156-yard No. 14 hole, his 19th ace ever and his 17th in competition. It was the first ace of the 2017 MGRC, and the third in the history of the tournament. Nick Price also aced No. 14 in the 2014 tournament.

“I hit an 8-iron,’’ Day said. “To make a hole in one you have to be lucky. It hit short of the hole and rolled straight and went in. I was pretty happy about it.

“That was good because I sure can’t make a putt and the greens are perfect. I’m playing really good. I’ve made three putts outside of 3 feet in two days. To be in the position I’m in after not making any putts, I’m extremely excited.’’

The final round tees off at 8:50 a.m. Sunday.

Game plan

What: Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic Final Round

When: tee times begin at 8:50 a.m. Sunday

Where: Fallen Oak, Saucier