ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jay Haas is familiar with Bellerive Country Club – and it showed in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship.
Haas, who grew up in nearby Belleville, Ill., and Duffy Waldorf shared the lead Thursday, shooting 5-under 66 in breezy, cool conditions.
The 59-year-old Haas, the winner of the major championship in 2006 and 2008, had a bogey-free round. The 50-year-old Waldorf had six birdies and one bogey.
“I didn’t expect it going out,” Haas said about shooting a low round. “I wasn’t very sharp today, but managed to … my misses were in the correct spots and I took advantage of a few good iron shots and just kind of kept it between the ditches, I guess you would say. But I’m very, very pleased.”
Haas has 16 Champions Tour victories after winning nine times on the PGA Tour.
Waldorf is winless in 11 career starts on the 50-and-over tour after winning four times on the PGA Tour.
“Tee to green, it was a very good day,” Waldorf said. “All in all, I hit the ball really well. I really liked my iron play. I had quite a few birdie putts. I didn’t make them all, so I feel like I still had some more out there.”
Sonny Skinner, the PGA head professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., was a stroke back along with Japan’s Kiyoshi Murota.
“I’m not going to adjust my goals because I did have a good day today,” Skinner said. “My main goal coming into this tournament was to just try to stay within each shot and each moment. A lot of times when you’re on the outside looking into a big stage like the Champions Tour, it’s real easy to get excited and your eyes wandering all over the place at how wonderful it is.
“You lose sight of the fact that, ‘Hey, I got to play golf.'”
Australia’s Peter Senior and Taiwan’s Chien-Soon Lu shot 68, and Tom Watson, a two-time Senior PGA champion, was another stroke back in a 12-player group that included Kenny Perry, Fred Funk, Rocco Mediate, Russ Cochran, Dan Forsman, Gil Morgan and Bill Glasson.
Defending champion Roger Chapman opened with a 72. Peter Jacobsen, the 2004 U.S. Senior Open winner at Bellerive, had a 75.
The temperature hovered in the low to mid-60s under overcast conditions. A light but steady rain fell three times in the afternoon, with each shower lasting less than 30 minutes.
Haas finished third in the 2004 U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive. He said he has played about 30 rounds at the country club.
“I’m certainly very excited about shooting 5 under here,” Haas said. “Probably my lowest score ever at Bellerive, no matter what age I was.”
His uncle, Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters winner who stills lives in Belleville, followed him on the back nine holes.
“I think he was happy for me,” said Haas, who was going to have dinner with Goalby and other family members. “He’ll try and get over when he can. The last time he walked nine holes, I don’t know when that was.”
Haas made his way around the course with a balky back that he said left him in “a little bit” of pain.
Waldorf finished ninth in the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive.
Murota had six birdies and a double bogey. Skinner, a two-time winner on what is now the Web.com Tour, had six birdies and two bogeys and hit all 14 fairways in regulation.
DIVOTS: Brian Fogt, the PGA director of instruction at Bellerive Country Club, led off the tournament by hitting the first tee shot. … The field includes 34 international players representing an event-record 18 countries. France’s Marc Farry, who earned a berth when David Frost withdrew, pushed the country total to the record. England leads with seven entrants, followed by Japan (4) and Australia (3). … The PGA Championship will be held at Bellerive in 2018.