Steven Alker, Charlie Saxon share 36-hole lead at WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz
Charlie Saxon carded six consecutive birdies on Friday on his way to a second-round 7-under 64 and a share of the lead with Steven Alker at the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz. Saxon and Alker sit 9-under through 36 holes at the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
“I think my previous best [this year] going into this week was two birdies in a row, so I’ll definitely take six,” laughed Saxon. “It was fun. I was hitting good golf shots and the putter got going a little bit. It’s kind of the stretch I’ve been waiting on all year.”
Beginning at the 10th hole, Saxon bogeyed his first and last holes but tallied nine birdies in between to record his lowest round of the year. He became the sixth player this season to count six birdies in a row with circles on Nos. 14-1.
“[a highlight was] Probably my shot on 18,” said Saxon of the risk/reward par-5 hole. “I hit a not-so-great second shot and left it in a weird spot in the rough above a bunker. But I hit a sweet little pitch in there for a tap-in, which was my fifth birdie in a row and made the next one for six.”
Saxon entered the week 76th in the Korn Ferry Tour points during an up-and-down season. The former University of Oklahoma star missed his first four cuts of the season but has earned two top-20 finishes in his last four starts. The 27-year-old has competed full time on the Korn Ferry Tour over the past two seasons after winning twice on PGA TOUR Series-China in 2018. With four wins in China, he is the all-time leading money winner on that Series.
While Saxon enjoyed his own fireworks in the second round, New Zealand native Steven Alker was looking for some stability. After an opening-round 68 that included an ace, five birdies and four bogeys on the scorecard, Alker carded a bogey-free 65 on Friday to grab a share of the lead at 9-under.
“I kept bogeys off the card today and made some nice saves,” said the 49-year-old. “That always keeps the round going. Yesterday was sort of topsy-turvy; I threw a hole-in-one in there but also had a couple of sixes. It was quite a mixed bag. But today I was more committed to the shots and putted well.”
While Alker has made the cut in two-thirds of his starts this year, he has been unable to capitalize with any high finishes. Over his last four events he’s finished T52-T50-67th-T44 and entered the week 138th in the points standings.
“It’s just confidence building; I haven’t had a great year,” remarked Alker. “I’ve made a bunch of cuts but finishing 40th or 50th doesn’t get it done. I’ve just been picking my targets and firing at them. I think today was good for me because I made some nice saves and kept the bogeys off the card.”
In four previous starts at the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by KraftHeinz, Alker has finished T5-T50-MC-T60.
Tomorrow’s third round will be broadcast live on Golf Channel at 4:00PM.