Steve Stricker in a tie for second at American Family Insurance Championship after two rounds

Steve Stricker is in position to win the American Family Insurance Championship for a second-straight year.

The Madison resident is sitting in a tie for first with Ernie Els at 9-under after shooting a 6-under 66 in Saturday’s second round.

“It was better today,” Stricker said of his afternoon. “I hit some nice putts, and could have made a couple more. As golfers we’re always trying to make as many as we can, but overall it was better.”

Stricker shrugged off the cool and wet conditions to come up with eight birdies, including four straight on the back-9. A pair of bogeys kept it from being an even better round, but his score was enough to put him in contention with one round to play.

Els had the best round of the day, shooting an 8-under 64 to tie Stricker for the lead. He’s looking for back-to-back wins after taking the Principal Charity Classic last week.

“I think I hit on something last week,” Els said. “I just, I was a little easier — I wouldn’t say easier, but just more comfortable (Saturday). I was really struggling with the wind (Friday), really had me off balance for most of the day. Greens were very fast, I felt like I was playing defensive. Today with a little less wind and softer conditions (I was better).”

While Els and Stricker are atop the leaderboard, several players are lurking. That includes Madison native Jerry Kelly. A two-time winner of the event, Kelly shot a 3-under 69 for a second-straight day. The highlight, though, was an eagle on 16 that he knocked in on his approach shot.

“That was key to say the least,” Kelly said. “Glad I got the birdie right before it, but that was definitely the best swing I made all day. So I thought it was going long, so I said ‘sit’ and I’m glad I did because one more inch up that pin and it would have bounced out. I loved seeing it disappear and not being in the back bunker.”

Stricker and Els will play in the final group, along with David Duval. Stricker, who serves as the host of the tournament, admits but there is pressure to play well and it kicks up even more when he’s in contention.

“No doubt. That will be the fun part and the hard part,” Stricker said. “Obviously, Ernie’s been playing well, he won last week, just a Hall of Famer, he’s going to come with everything he’s got. But it will be fun. It will be a good challenge and hopefully the weather cooperates for a day.”