CLOSE

Australian Stephen Leaney leads the Chubb Classic by a stroke after the second round on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at Lely Resort in Naples. Naples

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Stephen Leaney has had to play for his status on the PGA Tour Champions the last two years.

Sunday, the 50-year-old Australian will be playing for his first professional victory on American soil. But he'll have quite the contingent to hold off.

Leaney, who has 14 professional victories, made a 30-foot eagle putt on No. 17 and has a one-stroke lead over three-time champion Bernhard Langer in the Chubb Classic at The Classics Country Club at Lely Resort following Saturday's second round.

"It was a nice eagle on No. 17 again," Leaney said. "I had a perfect one to the front. It landed right on the front edge. And thankfully I saw Ken (Tanigawa) hole a putt just in front of me, so he showed me the line, and I rolled it in."

Leaney shot a 6-under-par 65 to get to 12 under par, one ahead of Langer, and two in front of two-time winner Fred Couples, Chris DiMarco and Fred Funk. 

More: Naples' Sophie Shrader uses golf to overcome tragedy and golf repays her at Chubb Classic

More: Doug Barron, Scott Parel tied for first-round lead at Chubb Classic in Naples

More: Fred Couples has been in similar spot to Premier Golf League

CLOSE

Two-time champion Fred Couples is just two back at Chubb Classic after the second round on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at Lely Resort in Naples. Naples Daily News

Leaney had three top-10 finishes in his Champions Tour debut last year, then tied for fourth in qualifying school to keep status for 2020.  He tied for 10th in the tour's last event in Morocco two weeks ago.

Leaney was undaunted on what he faces in regards to Langer, who has 40 tour victories, Couples, who has 13 while not playing a full schedule, and Funk, a nine-time winner who is trying to become the oldest champion in tour history at 63. 

"I have won tournaments before," Leaney said. "No problem in this position. So it's all about controlling yourself. I can't control what anyone else does. And regardless of who's behind me — I know that someone is going to go out and shoot a low score, so you can't just hold on to what you've got.

"So I just got to try and stay patient and go at the flags I can go at. And if it falls my way, so be it."

Langer, who played with Leaney on Saturday, got off to a slow start, making pars on his first seven holes. He birdied Nos. 8 and 11, then rattled off three straight on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to jump up the leaderboard in a tournament he lost in a playoff last year.

"I left everything short," Langer said. "It's like the greens on the course were slower than the putting greens, so it took me nine holes to just — but really, it's crazy. But I left a lot of putts short, so that's why I think there were no birdies. I had chances."

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Couples had a share of the lead when he finished, but Leaney's eagle on No.  17 and Langer's birdie on the hole pushed him back to a tie for third.

"I think I judged the wind pretty well, and I made a lot of short birdie putts," Couples said. "But overall, I drove it really well. ... This is the third round I have ever played here. Obviously, the wind blew the other way in the pro-am, and now it's blowing the other way.

"I like the course. Really small greens. Kind of fits my eye. And (Sunday)is another big day. I would like to keep playing well and see if I can get a W here."

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

DiMarco, whose best finish is a tie for sixth on tour, also made an eagle on No. 

Langer and Couples have done that in Naples before. Leaney will try to join them.

"He played really good," Langer said of Leaney. "And I played solid. He just putted a little better. And yeah, should be a fun shootout (Sunday), hopefully."

***********************************************************************************************

Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at ghardwig@naplesnews.com. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/

Chubb Classic

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE