Funk & Pate Set Pace at SAS Championship

Fred Funk and Steve Pate posted matching 3-under 69s to take a share of the lead through 36 holes of the SAS Championship. The 54-hole, $2.1 million Champions Tour event started Friday at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C.

The 56-year-old Funk started slowly with a bogey and eight pars on the front nine. But the former golf coach at the University of Maryland got rolling on the inward half with four birdies. Pate, a 51-year-old Californian, posted four birdies and a bogey to tie Funk at 8-under 136 with a round to go.

"Well, it wasn't a very easy round, the first part," Funk told reporters. "I was really struggling with my whole game and managed to shoot 1 over on the front. I kept working on my swing, trying to figure something out. And I really never could figure anything out, and I tried a couple different swing keys."

Despite what he considered "ugly" play, Pate is positioned to earn his first victory on the over-50 circuit. "(Friday) was really easy. I hit everything on line," said Pate, who like Funk opened with a 67.

"(Saturday), I hit nothing on line, there was nothing easy about it, but I only made one bogey, so that was good. I mean, that could have easily gone sideways pretty quickly, and it didn't, so that was nice."

Tied for third at 7-under are Jay Don Blake and Andrew Magee, who both shot 70. Another stroke back at 138 are Mark McNulty (68), Mark O'Meara (69), Mark Wiebe (69) and 65-year-old Larry Nelson, who almost shot his age with a 66. Nelson, a three-time major winner on the PGA Tour, had a stellar outing with three birdies on the front nine and three more on the back.

"It's just kind of a personal thing, so I guess that's probably a good thing to focus on," Nelson said about nearly shooting his age. "The tournament is secondary at that point. Now (Sunday), the tournament might be a little more better or a little bit more of a priority . . . than it was today."

After opening with a 66, first-round leader Russ Cochran carded a 73 to slip into a tie for ninth at 139 with John Huston (68), Bill Glasson (69), Mike Reid (70), Gary Hallberg (71) and defending champion Kenny Perry (71).

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