Billy Andrade tied for 10th in last year’s Principal Charity Classic, and it was a mood-altering experience. He shot 66 in the first and third rounds, but 76 in the second round.
“I played with Bernhard Langer on the first and third day,” Andrade said. “We were in the locker room afterwards and he said, ‘You shoot 12 under with me, you shoot 4 over without me. You need to play with me more often.’ I said, ‘Yea, no kidding.’”
Langer skipped this year’s Principal Charity Classic, but Andrade didn’t miss him.
Andrade shot a record-setting 9-under-par 63 in Saturday’s second round and shares the lead with Joe Durant and Todd Hamilton at 10 under par heading into Sunday’s final round.
Another record was set Saturday. The 26,719 fans who came to Wakonda set a second-round attendance record. Friday’s announced attendance of 25,058 was also a record for the first round.
Tom Lehman and Miguel Ángel Jiménez both birdied the 18th hole to finish at 9 under. Lehman, who shot 68, has broken par in all 14 career rounds at the Principal Charity Classic. He’s finished eighth or better in his last four appearances.
Jimenez, making his first appearance at Wakonda, bounced back from a double bogey at No. 7 and a bogey at the par-5 15th to finish within a shot of the lead with a 67.
Eight players head into Sunday’s final round within two shots of the lead. Rocco Mediate, the winner at the Senior PGA Championship last week, is at 8 under along with Scott McCarron and first-round leader John Inman. Inman was alone in the lead at 11 under until he hit two balls in the water and made a triple-bogey 6 at the par-3 17th hole.
In the 15-year history of this event, no one has ever come from more than two shots back to win.
Much of Saturday’s attention was on Andrade and his record-setting round of golf.
“It was a great day,” Andrade said. “I was going along pretty well, then I birdied 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18.”
Andrade also got off to a good start on the front nine, making three straight birdies starting at No. 3. After his only bogey of the day at No. 6, he bounced back with another birdie on No. 8 to turn in 33. Then came his 6-under 30 on the back nine.
“I didn’t get off to a great start (Friday),” Andrade said. “This golf course is pretty easy. But when you’re off a little bit it can really play hard, and it’s tough to hit these fairways.”
Andrade’s 63 is the lowest round shot in the Principal Charity Classic at the Wakonda Club, which became tournament host in 2013. It was also a course record at Wakonda, which opened in 1922. The previous low, 64, was posted by Bill Glasson in 2014 (final round) and Bart Bryant in 2013 (second round).
It also tied the all-time tournament record in relation to par. Kirk Triplett shot a 9-under-par 62 in the final round of the 2012 tournament at Glen Oaks (par 71). There were also a trio of 63s shot at Glen Oaks: John Bland in the second round in 2002; Massy Kuramoto in the final round in 2007; and Tommy Armour III in the first round in 2010.
Durant shot 65 Saturday at a Wakonda course he’s had success on. Durant tied for second in 2015 and was seventh in 2014. He’s shot in the 60s in seven of eight career rounds here.
“It’s going to take a lot of birdies to have a chance,” Durant said.
Hamilton also birdied 18 for a second straight 67 to be part of a jammed leaderboard.
“I think it’s going to be great for the fans,” said Hamilton, who has a piece of the lead heading into the final round for the first time since he won the 2004 British Open. “We saw a guy (Saturday) shooting 9 under. It’s definitely gettable.”
Andrade and playing partners Jeff Sluman and Duffy Waldorf rode each other’s momentum all day. Sluman had a 68, Waldorf a 67. Their best ball was a 14-under 58. Someone in the group birdied every hole on the back nine.
Andrade, who won three times on the PGA TOUR Champions in 2015, lost a playoff to Esteban Toledo at the Allianz Championship this year and also finished fifth in last week’s Senior PGA Championship. He’s finished in the Top 10 in four of his last five starts.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Andrade said. “I feel good about my game. I know I’ve got to shoot a good round (Sunday). I’ve just got to play my best and see if that’s good enough. Anybody can do what I did (Saturday). That’s how good everybody is. When they get hot, they can flush it out.”
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter