NAPLES, Fla. – Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly fell out of the lead for most of the day before rebounding nicely at the end of the Shark Shootout’s second round.
Stricker birdied No. 18 to finish a run of five birdies in six holes to get the team to 13-under 131 for a one-stroke lead at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
“It’s going to be a shootout,” Stricker said. “There’s a ton of teams up there at the top, and a lot of birdies are going to be flying (Sunday). We’ve got to get right in there with our own games and make a lot of birdies on our own, too.”
Stricker’s 8-foot birdie prevented a four-way tie. Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes, Steve Flesch and Dustin Johnson, and Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank were all at 12 under after the better-ball second round.
Stricker and Kelly and Verplank and Leonard started the day tied for the lead after 66s in Friday’s modified alternate-shot format. Teams will play a scramble Sunday.
Tournament host Greg Norman is not playing for the first time in the event’s 21 years because of shoulder surgery in September.
After shooting 29-37 in the first round, Stricker and Kelly struggled to a 35 on the front nine while other teams took turns in the lead. Stricker and Kelly bounced back with a 30 on the back.
“We just kind of flip-flopped the nines,” said Kelly, who won this tournament in 2006 with Rod Pampling in a playoff over Leonard and Verplank. “We told ourself now we know how to play both sides.”
Following 10 pars and two birdies in the first 12 holes, Kelly holed a chip on No. 13 to start a streak of five birdies in the final six holes. Stricker also had a birdie chip-in, on No. 15, after he got up and down for a birdie on the par-5 14th. Kelly birdied No. 17, then Stricker hit an 8-iron from 158 yards to 8 feet at the last.
Three teams – Chad Campbell and Tim Clark, Chris DiMarco and Rickie Fowler, and Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter – are tied for fifth at 10 under.
Holmes eagled No. 17 as he and Perry completed a 7-under 29 on the back nine. Perry is attempting to win his third Shootout title with his third partner. He won the unofficial PGA Tour event last year with Scott Hoch, but Hoch was unable to play this year after undergoing wrist surgery.
Perry and Holmes shot a 62 in the better-ball format, with Holmes’ 11-foot putt at No. 12 ending a long string of missed birdie attempts over the first two days.
“I stuck my arms up in the air,” Holmes said. “I felt like I won the tournament.”
“When he rolled it in on 12, it just seemed the gates started opening a little bit more for us,” Perry said.
They followed with birdies on Nos. 12-15, then Holmes hit a 346-yard drive, and a 7-iron from 188 yards to 2 feet.
Flesch also is a replacement. He got in the field Monday when Fred Couples withdrew with recurring back problems. The Flesch-Johnson team birdied its final three holes.