CHIBA, Japan (AP) — Scott McCarron was in a familiar spot at the top of a PGA Tour Champions leaderboard in his first trip to Japan. California childhood rival Kevin Sutherland was close behind — again.
Coming off his third victory in the last six tournaments, the 52-year-old McCarron shot his second straight 6-under 66 on Saturday at Narita Golf Club to take a one-stroke lead over Sutherland in the Japan Airlines Championship — the senior tour’s first event in Japan.
“I’ve been in this position a lot as of late,” McCarron said. “I really enjoy being in this position. I get to play with Kevin Sutherland again. We’ve been making a habit out of it this last month, I think we’ve been in the final group three out of the last four weeks. We’ve been battling it out and I’m sure it will be a good battle tomorrow.”
Sutherland, tied for the first-round lead with Glen Day at 65, had a 68. Also visiting Japan for the first time, Sutherland made a 30-foot putt on the par-4 18th for his third birdie on the last four holes.
“I stayed really patient today,” Sutherland said. “I didn’t get frustrated at all. I wasn’t making any birdies and then all of a sudden you birdie three of the last four. But I think a lot of it was just early in the round I just didn’t let any sort of frustration creep in.”
The long-hitting McCarron birdied all four par 5s after birdieing three of them Friday. He saved par on 18 with a 6-footer to keep the outright lead.
“These greens are absolutely perfect,” McCarron said. “The golf course is in great shape, so we’re just having a lot of fun here.”
McCarron won the Shaw Charity Classic last week in Calgary, Alberta, to tie Bernhard Langer for the tour victory lead with four. The three-time PGA Tour winner won the Allianz Championship in February in Florida, the major Senior Players Championship in July in Maryland and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open three weeks ago in upstate New York. He has six victories in the last two seasons on the 50-and-over tour.
“I prepared very hard to get ready for this PGA Tour Champions,” McCarron said. “I knew how good these guys were and I wanted to get my game in the best shape that I could possibly be in. I’m starting to reap some of those rewards from all that hard work. But it’s just been a lot of fun for me. That’s the biggest thing I think why I’m playing well, I’m really enjoying it out here.”
The 53-year-old Sutherland…