A month after meeting in a playoff for the Senior British Open championship, Mark McNulty and Loren Roberts find themselves together again.
Roberts and McNulty each shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge and share the lead at 11 under after two rounds of the Boeing Classic. The duo will take a two-shot advantage over Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara into Sunday’s final round.
It was late July when Roberts and McNulty met in a playoff for the Open title at Sunningdale. On the third playoff hole Roberts finally outlasted McNulty to wrap up his second Senior British Open title.
Now the pair will be in the final group Sunday.
“There are a lot of guys looming right there. We’re going to have to go out and shoot under par tomorrow,” Roberts said. “I think it’s going to be a shootout.”
McNulty spent Friday night on the range, trying to figure out how a sizzling opening nine holes of the tournament got away from him in the first round. McNulty shot a 30 for those first nine holes — the back nine — before struggling with two bogeys and finished with a 4-under 68.
He didn’t make the same mistakes again. McNulty was 4 under on his first nine holes Saturday, then made another four birdies on the back nine. He birdied Nos. 10, 14 and 15, then curled in a long birdie putt on the 16th to share the lowest round of the tournament. His only hiccup was a bogey at the 12th.
McNulty has four top-10 finishes this year, including a victory at the Principal Charity Classic and his runner-up finish to Roberts.
“I played nice and steady all the way through the round,” said McNulty, who is 9 under on the back nine through two rounds. “I’ve been going for flags a lot more this year. My putting is down some but I’ve been pleased with how I’ve played.”
Roberts wouldn’t let McNulty get away. Roberts had four birdies in his final five holes to match McNulty’s 65.
Thanks to his touch around the green, Roberts scrambled to a bogey-free round, following up on his 4-under 68 in the first round. The steady putter made three consecutive birdies on 7, 8 and 9, then did the same thing on the back nine with consecutive birdies at 14, 15 and 16 before his 8-foot birdie at 18.
Key for Roberts were his saves on Nos. 10 and 11 when he chipped close twice to make easy pars and keep his momentum going.
“I’m going to have to look at shooting 4- or 5-under-par tomorrow and see what happens,” Roberts said. “Mark went low, I went low, I think Mark and I are both going to have to go out and shoot 4 or 5 under just to stay ahead of the pack.”
Langer had a 6-under 66, a round that he kept from falling apart on the back nine. He saved par on the 12th with a 15-foot putt, then got up and down from a greenside pot bunker on the 14th.
He narrowly avoiding hitting the ball into the hazard on the par-5 15th, as his second shot caught a tree limb and fell in a bunker instead. Langer ended up making bogey on 15, but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.
O’Meara led by two shots after the first round, but missed a number of short birdie putts throughout his second round. O’Meara suddenly found his putting stroke in the closing holes with birdies at 14, 15 and 16. He stumbled with a bogey at 17 when his tee shot on the par-3 hole missed the green, but rallied with a birdie at 18.
Craig Stadler came from a jumbled pack to surge into contention.
Two years ago, Stadler was in a record seven-man playoff here, before losing out to Denis Watson. Dusting off a putter that was sitting in his closet for about five years, Stadler made six birdies for the second straight day. The difference Saturday was that Stadler didn’t throw in the two double bogeys that ruined his first round.
Stadler heads to Sunday three shots back and looking for his first victory since 2004.
“It feels like 25 (years) most of the time,” Stadler joked.