PHOENIX — It’s no surprise that two of the best PGA Tour Champions in 2022 are dominating the field at the Charles Schwab Cup championship.

It should also come as no surprise that the golfer who has taken this circuit by storm for the past 15 months has taken to the driving seat to win his first series title.

Steven Alker, tied for the Tour lead with four wins this season, including a senior PGA Championship major, entered the playoffs leading the points race. Padraig Harrington, in his first full season on the tour, is No. 2 in points and has three wins, including a major at the US Senior Open.

After the computers crunched all the numbers, Alker and Harrington were the only mathematically alive ones who could claim the season title. After the two pre-tournament favorites fired at each other on a sunny Friday afternoon at the Phoenix Country Club, it’s Alker and Harrington who dominate the standings.

Harrington, playing in the penultimate group in the second round, birdie-birdie to shoot a 64, tied for the low round of the week. He is at 12 cents after 36 holes. For Harrington to win the Cup, however, he must win, but he also needs Alker to finish outside the top five.

It’s starting to look like a long shot.

“Steve is relentless,” Harrington told Golf Channel after his round.

Alker was tied for the lead after 18 holes and after a 7-under 64 he holds the absolute lead. Alker opened his inning Friday with a pair of birdies, taking his first lead with another birdie on No. 5. Over the next two hours he would share the lead with Harrington a few more times. Birdies on 15 and 17 took him to 13 under for the week so far. Alker has birdied 13 in two days and is yet to bug a hole.

“I know what I have to do, the numbers are all there. It’s kind of black and white. I’m just trying to put myself in a position to win a golf tournament, that’s important to me,” Alker said. “I have to keep hammering those birdies.”

Alker, a New Zealander who moved to Scottsdale in 2002, is followed by his family this week, including his wife Tanya, son Ben and daughter Skye. This rooting section will be dropped on a Saturday as Skye, a member of Fountain Hills High School’s cross-country team, competes in the state championships.

“Come on Falcons,” Alker said.

Alker and Harrington are the only two golfers who can win the cup this week. Even if Harrington wins this tournament, he needs Alker to finish outside the top five.

And Langer?

Bernhard Langer, the ageless wonder who, at 65, won for the 44th time on the Champions Tour last week, posted scores of 66 and 69 and is tied for eighth at 7 under. A 45th win would tie Hale Irwin’s mark set 15 years ago, but he will start Saturday’s third round six strokes off the pace.

Many birds but no eagles

The offbeat stat of the week after 36 holes: it took until late Friday for the first eagle to finally be recorded.

Thongchai Jaidee birdied the par-5 18th hole to give him a 68 in the second round and move him into the top 10. He’s the only eagle after 1,188 holes of competition. There have been 284 birdies so far this week.

What’s online?

First place this week is worth $440,000. The winner of the Cup race collects a super bonus of 1 million dollars.

In fact, the top five in the Cup standings will earn a lump sum deposit into a Schwab brokerage account:

First place: $1,000,000

Second: $500,000

Third: $300,000

Fourth: $200,000

Fifth: $100,000