Isao Aoki shot a 2-under-par 69 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over defending champion Mike Hill and Bob E. Smith after two rounds of the Kroger Senior Classic.
Aoki was at 10-under 132 with one round to play in the $900,000 tournament. He started the day one shot behind J.C. Snead, drew even with a birdie on No. 10 and took the lead for good with a birdie on 13."I'm glad to be the leader, but two are nine under - it's really not a lead at all," Aoki said.
Snead, who had matched Jack Nicklaus' course record with a 62 in the opening round, had three bogeys on the back nine in a 73 that left him three strokes off the lead.
Smith eagled the par-5 18th in a 64, the best score of the day, while Hill had a 66.
"I hit a 3-wood six feet over the green on 18," Smith said. "I'm not the best wedge player, so I took a 4-wood - lo and behold, I holed it for 3."
Smith, who has never won a Senior Tour event, jokingly asked for support Sunday.
"Root for me - I'm the underdog," Smith said. "I'm dead broke. I need the money."
Smith, a bachelor for the past 16 years and who once claimed to live out of a car, said he had just gotten married, moved into a new house and had "eight new mouths to feed - although three of them are dogs."
Hill, who had curtailed his playing schedule because of his wife's hip replacement surgery, said he was glad he didn't embarrass himself.
"I've only played nine tournaments this year, so I'm excited about being able to go out tomorrow and defend the title," Hill said.
"It's going to come down to who can make the putts when it's crucial. Aoki is a good player. He'll shoot 67 or 68 tomorrow, so the guys behind him better shoot good scores."
Brian Barnes, who shot a 65, was a stroke behind Hill and Smith.
Snead and Aoki, playing in the same group, kept pace through the front nine, each picking up one stroke. But Aoki took charge as Snead faltered.