Strange sits 10 strokes back

NAPLES, Fla. -- Mike McCullough shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead over Hale Irwin and Mark James in the ACE Group Classic.

The 59-year-old McCullough, seeking his third Champions Tour victory, had a 9-under 135 total on The Club at TwinEagles course. Irwin, the 50-and-over tour's career victory leader with 41, shot a 70. James had a 68.

McCullough made a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

"Whenever certain guys are leading, it's kind of like everybody's chasing them," McCullough said. "I'm being chased right now, but I'm not on the tip of most people's tongues. But by God, they still have to chase me.

"So if I go out and play golf and they go out and play golf and the patience is still there, I think that winning another golf tournament is not out of reach," he said.

The 59-year-old Irwin, battling a cold, did not speak to reporters after the round.

Curtis Strange, playing his first Champions Tour event, followed his opening 74 with a 71. The two-time U.S. Open champion was tied for 32nd, 10 strokes back.

"I played very well and hit the ball very well," Strange said. "I could've putted better. I've still got some work to do on all parts of my game. I was very pleased with how I played. Obviously the score could've been a little better, but I'm pleased."

Mike Reid (68), Jerry Pate (70) and R.W. Eaks (72) were 6-under. Jim Albus (67), Tom Wargo (69), Gil Morgan (69), D.A. Weibring (69), Don Pooley (70) and Ron Streck (71) were 5-under.

Defending champion Craig Stadler shot a 77 to drop 15 strokes behind.