BETHESDA, Md. – Robert Allenby can’t even make a fist with his right hand when he wakes up in the morning because of a mysterious swelling that has pained him for months. It would seem a debilitating ailment for a golfer, yet the Australian was able to get enough grip on his game Friday to shoot a 6-under 65 and take the second-round lead in the Booz Allen Classic.

Allenby’s round was the best of the day on a surprisingly player-friendly Blue Course at Congressional Country Club, giving him a 9-under 133 total and a two-stroke advantage over first-round leader Matt Gogel, Lee Westwood and fellow Australians Adam Scott and Steve Elkington.

Allenby is the only player on the leaderboard who has to run hot water over his hand in the morning just to relieve stiffness and make a round of golf possible. Allenby has managed to compete in recent weeks because the ailment doesn’t affect his tee-to-green game, just his chipping and putting.

Eaks shakes off shank to take Champions lead

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – R.W. Eaks shanked a sand wedge on the third hole, then shot a season-best 7-under 65 to take the early first-round lead Friday in the Champions Tour’s Bayer Advantage Classic.

Hometown favorite Tom Watson, playing with Jack Nicklaus on a course the Golden Bear designed, was two shots back at 67, along with Rodger Davis, Don Pohl and Jim Colbert.

Play was suspended for 1 hour, 24 minutes when rain and wind blew through this suburb south of Kansas City, causing several players to finish late.

The same storm system on Wednesday night uprooted trees in the area and destroyed the media tent at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.

The 65-year-old Nicklaus, who has suggested this could be one of his final tournament appearances on American soil, played with his son, Steve, in the pro-am and finished with a 73. Dismissing the importance of the Champions Tour event, he said playing with Steve was the only reason he was here.

“I always try to do my best, but the reason I came is to spend time with Steve,” he said. “A 73, I’m not very happy with. That’s not a very exciting score.”

Eaks, starting on the back nine, bogeyed the 592-yard par-5 12th hole after shanking his sand wedge.

“I don’t think I’ve shanked a ball in 25 years,” Eaks said. “I finally got one out of my system.”

Then he made a 17-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th and, one hole later, launched a string of four straight birdies.

After hitting a 5-wood onto the green of the 562-yard par-5 fourth hole, he rolled in a 65-foot putt for an eagle.

Making his round even more improbable was the fact he had to pull out of a qualifying round for the U.S. Open this week after only three holes.

“I have something I’ve got to go get taken care of when I get home,” he said. “If it works out, then I’ll tell you guys what it is. If it doesn’t, then we’ll go from there. It’s something that’s a little private right now.”

Watson and Nicklaus received a long, loud ovation from the gallery as they walked up to the 18th green. The 55-year-old Watson has never been able to win this tournament in front of his hometown fans.

“Playing in front of your hometown, I don’t get a chance to do that very often,” he said. “I play in other peoples’ hometowns. This is my hometown. To win here, it would be very, very special to win here.”

Watson hit every green but a balky putter kept him from having a super round.

“I putted for 18 birdies and really didn’t come up with very much,” he said. “It was a good round of golf from tee to green. I was really happy.”

A close friend of Nicklaus, Watson has said he doubted the Golden Bear would never appear in an American tournament again.

“Jack is the man. He designed the golf course,” Watson said. “He may be playing in his last Champions Tour event. It’s kind of historic to have it here in Kansas City. I hope it’s not his last event. The sad thing is he feels like he’s not capable of playing anymore. His body just doesn’t let him hit the golf ball like he knows he can if he had a healthy body.”


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