David Frost of South Africa had a 7-under 65 Friday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.
The tournament opens the 34th Champions Tour season at Hualalai Golf Club.
The field of 40 has champions from the past two years and major champions from the past five, plus eight sponsor exemptions.
Frost made a 40-foot eagle putt on the seventh hole to reach 5 under. His only bogey came on the next hole and three birdies on the back nine put him into the lead.
Kirk Triplett, the 2012 Champions Rookie of the Year, bogeyed the last hole to fall into a six-way tie for second at 66. He also had an eagle, hitting his hybrid club 244 yards to 6 feet on the par-5 10th.
”I hit the ball real well all day, had a lot of chances,” Triplett said. ”I made a nice eagle and had a couple birdies early on the back nine that got me to a nice score, then I couldn’t get it any lower.”
He was second with 63-year-old Tom Kite, Willie Wood, John Cook, Fred Couples and Tom Lehman, the senior tour’s Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012.
Frost won his last start a month ago on the European Senior Tour. He also captured two Champions titles last year and tied for fourth at the Pacific Links Championship in Hawaii in September.
It was his best year since joining the Champions Tour in 2009. Friday was simply a continuation, despite missing three putts inside 6 feet.
”I hit the ball very well out there today,” said Frost, who has gone without a three-putt in 218 consecutive rounds. ”I missed a couple short putts, made one really long one for eagle. I wouldn’t say my game was rusty, it was quite good considering I took one month off. It was just a matter of concentrating at the right times.”
John Huston, Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry are eighth at 67. Australian Steve Elkington shot 68 in his senior debut and is tied for 11th with Corey Pavin and Jay Haas.
Only eight players, including defending champion Dan Forsman (73), failed to break par in calm conditions at Hualalai. This course has been the easiest on the Champions Tour in nine of the past 10 years.
The average score Friday was 69.550, just a bit better than last year’s opening round (69.610).