PITTSBURGH (AP) — Joe Durant, David Frost and Doug Garwood sprinted to the early lead at the Senior Players Championship, shooting 6-under 64 on Thursday at defenseless Fox Chapel.
Still drying out after days of steady rain, the par-70 layout in suburban Pittsburgh offered little resistance. Frost and Garwood breezed through their rounds without making a bogey, and Durant offset his lone bogey with seven birdies.
Bernhard Langer, Corey Pavin, Larry Mize, Steve Pate, Olin Browne, Bart Bryant, Peter Fowler and Wes Short Jr. shot 65. Colin Montgomerie, the Senior PGA winner last month, opened with a 5-under 30 on the front nine before fading to a 69.
Defending champion Kenny Perry, looking for his fourth major title in the last year, failed to take advantage of the prime scoring conditions. Playing his eighth tournament in nine weeks, Perry shot an even-par 70.
Perry’s score was actually one better than the 71 he posted in the opening round last year. Perry responded last June by shooting a combined 20 under over the final 54 holes to edge Fred Couples and Duffy Waldorf for the first major pro title of his lengthy career.
The 53-year-old Kentuckian doubted Fox Chapel would be as generous this time around, but with wide open fairways and damp greens, it wasn’t a fair fight. More than half the players finished at even par or better.
Durant, a Champions Tour rookie who is still attempting to maintain fulltime status on the PGA Tour, holed out from the greenside bunker on the par-3 third, kick-starting his round. He ended it with a sliding left-to-right birdie putt on the par-5 18th for his 64, matching his best round since joining the Champions Tour after turning 50 in April.
Frost and Garwood quickly joined Durant atop the leaderboard.
Frustrated after a middling 39th-place finish at the Encompass Championship last week, Frost ditched the shafts on his irons for the first time in four years, trading them in for something that offered a little more forgiveness. The move paid off with a near flawless round in which he missed only one fairway and three greens.
Garwood, a two-time All-American during his college career at Fresno State, has finally found a home on the Champions Tour after spending most of his adult life on pro golf’s fringe. He never played in a PGA Tour event and sold insurance among other things before trying to give the 50-and-over circuit a shot last spring.
After some initial struggles, it is paying off handsomely.
Garwood lost a playoff four weeks ago in the Principal Charity Classic and backed it up with a runner-up finish last weekend. Garwood’s round included three straight birdies on Nos. 12-14, including a 35-footer on the par-4 14th. His birdie attempt on the 18th stopped one roll short of giving him the lead.
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