The final three golfers to finish up Saturday in the SAS Championship were the three at the top of the leaderboard.
Woody Austin, with birdies on the last two holes, was tied with Doug Barron for the lead at 10-under 134. Jerry Kelly, with birdies on three of his last five holes, was a shot back at 135 as he seeks his third PGA Tour Champions win of the year.
The three will tee it up and go at it again Sunday at Prestonwood Country Club. But it’s not as if the championship will be decided only by that threesome. There are others to consider.
Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was at 7-under 137. He won the Senior Players Championship this year and has eight top-10 finishes. Also at 137 was Stephen Ames, who birdied the last four holes Saturday for a bogey-free 66.
Then there’s the long shadow of Bernhard Langer. He won at Prestonwood last year with a 22-under total and has two SAS titles. With 40 career wins, he has proven he can zoom up the leaderboard and will go off Sunday four shots behind Austin and Barron after a 69.
After perfect golf weather in the first two rounds, with warm temperatures and little wind, it could turn colder and rainy by Sunday afternoon. If so, that could soften up what has been a firm and fast Prestonwood course.
Austin, 55, has had 5-under 67s in each of the first two rounds and said, “I’ll probably have to at least duplicate what I had the first two days to have a legitimate shot.”
Austin has had a number of legitimate shots at winning this year with nine top-10 finishes. He was second in both The Ally Challenge and Hoag Classic, and third in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.
Kelly, who also had a 67 Saturday, won the Ally Challenge and American Family Insurance Championship, and tied for second in the U.S. Senior Open. He came to the SAS Championship second in the Charles Schwab Cup standings with $1.94 million, fully prepped for the Schwab Cup Playoffs that begin next week.
Barron won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in August, beating the odds. After Monday qualifying for the event, he led wire to wire for his first Champions tour win, firing a final-round 66 to hold off Fred Couples.
Barron had a 68 on Saturday, chipping in for eagle at the par-5 12th and then making a 6-foot bogey putt on the par-4 13th that could have been a round-saver.
“I’m playing with one of the best ball-strikers of my generation and I’m playing with the No. 2 money leader,” Barron said. “You’re not going to get away with it if you don’t keep making birdies. That’s the way it is.”
While Austin and Kelly could transition from the PGA Tour to the PGA Tour Champions after turning 50, Barron has spent most of the past 10 years on the mini-tours, looking to hopefully join the Champions tour this year. He held the opening-round lead in the SAS with a 66 and led most of Saturday until Austin’s closing birdie at the 18th.
“He played great,” Austin said. “You wouldn’t know that he hasn’t played for 10 years or so because he hits the ball very solid. He hits it straight as a string.
“He played beautifully, which you expect out here. Then you have Jerry, who has made a (boat)-load of birdies all year. You’re going to have to go low.”