Justin Leonard posts course record to take 3-shot lead, Steve Stricker tied for second

VERONA — Justin Leonard’s first time playing University Ridge Golf Course proved to be record-breaking, as the 50-year-old shot a 10-under 62 to set the course record during the first round of the American Family Insurance Championship on Friday.

“Everything was working today,” Leonard said. “I feel like I hit every shot just about the way I wanted to today and that’s pretty rare, it’s obviously the goal, and then make a few putts on top of it.

“I didn’t play with any kind of score in mind. In fact, I got in the scoring trailer and the group that finished on the ninth hole, (fellow golfer) Tom Lehman asked me what I shot, I said, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s kind of the goal is just to get lost in the round.”

Leonard went out fast and closed strong, collecting birdies on four of the first five holes and another four on the final six holes. It included knocking in a long putt on the 17th that had him playing up to the fans prior to the ball even finding the bottom of the hole.

“I’m normally not much of a reactor, but on 17 I made a putt, and before it went in I turned around and I wanted to hear the crowd. I don’t normally do stuff like that, so yeah, I was having fun.”

Eight groups behind Leonard, Steve Stricker was keeping an eye on what was going on ahead of him during his round.

“When you see somebody doing that,” Stricker said of Leonard, “you have the confidence that it’s out there and you can be a little bit more aggressive and try to get them.

“That motivates me to get as many birdies as I can, because you don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The Madison-native didn’t fall too far behind, posting a 7-under 65 to end the day in a four-way tie for second. He carded six birdies, an eagle and just a single bogey. It was his 53rd-straight round of shooting par or better in a PGA TOUR sanctioned event, breaking the all-time record of Tiger Woods.

“It really wasn’t on my mind, but anytime you can pass Tiger Woods, I may text him and just remind him that I did pass him,” Stricker said. “No, seriously, I’m proud of that. I would have rather done that on the regular Tour, but to do it out here is even special, too.

The day was not as good to fellow Madison golfer Jerry Kelly. He shot an even par 72, posting three birdies and three bogeys, including on the 18th. It was a frustrating day that was clearly still bugging him during his quick stop to speak with the media afterwards.

“I didn’t hit the fairways, didn’t hit the greens, didn’t hit the putts, didn’t hit the chips,” Kelly said. “It’s

So, how does he get back into it?

“Make as many birdies as you can,” Kelly said. “If you don’t, there’s no rally, that’s it. Try and make eagles, try and make birdies.”

While Kelly will chase, Stricker is in position to challenge Leonard, who is looking for his first win on the Champions Tour.

“Yeah, it’s good to get off to a good start,” Stricker said. “One round, we’ve got two more, but looks like
you’re going to have to keep it going the way the scores are. I’m excited about the start.”