Bernhard Langer made an impressive start to the defence of his title in The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, with the German part of a record eight-way share for the lead after the opening round at Sunningdale Golf Club.
Langer ripped up the record books on his own 12 months ago as he raced to an unprecedented 13-stroke victory at Royal Porthcawl, in Wales, but he had to share another piece of history on this occasion following a five under par opening round of 65.
That total was matched by the American quintet of Michael Allen, Bart Bryant, Marco Dawson, Lee Janzen and Jeff Sluman, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez and Lianwei Zhang, who also created history by becoming the first Chinese player to compete in The Senior Open. The previous record for the most players tied for first round lead in the Senior Open was four players, which happened in both 2004 and 2007.
Langer is bidding to equal the record of three victories in the Senior Open, currently held by Gary Player and Tom Watson, and despite not hitting top gear, the 57 year old former Ryder Cup Captain moved ominously to the top of the leaderboard with six birdies against just a single bogey, which came on the sixth hole.
“I held it together well today,” said Langer. “My putting was pretty good. I don’t feel totally comfortable with my swing yet, I’m still working on it. I think I get underneath it a bit which causes a push-fade and a pull-hook. I’m trying to improve in that area. But overall, five-under is a good score, and I didn’t make any major mistakes and kept it together.”
His playing partner, Jiménez, is competing in his second Senior Open after finished tied eighth last year, and the oldest winner in European Tour history is looking to add a maiden Senior Major Championship to his glittering CV. He also carded six birdies, with his only bogey of the day on the 17th hole.
“It’s a good start. The target is still at the end of the week and the thing you need to do is keep enjoying it and have fun like I did today on the golf course.
“I remember the golf course. At the beginning of the week, you feel like there are a few holes missing but the golf course, it’s a great golf course. Its firm fairways. The greens, they are really softer than what we played yesterday and the day before in practice but the golf course, it’s a very good golf course.”
Welshman Mark Mouland, American Brian Henninger and Argentine Cesar Monasterio are one shot behind the leaders on four under par, while Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie and American Watson are among eight players tied a further shot back on three under par.
Montgomerie, the three-time Senior Major Champion who finished runner up to Langer last year, posted five birdies in his round of 67, but a double bogey six on the par four 11th hole cost him a share of the lead.
“It was disappointing to double a hole, my God, because it was playing as easy as it possibly can be,” said Montgomerie. “But 67, we’ve said many times before, you can only lose it today and not win it. If that’s the worst score I do around here, I should be okay.”
Watson managed one more birdie than his playing partner Montgomerie, but also dropped three shots on the back nine to also settle of a share of 12th place.
“I hit some quality iron shots, made a few putts, and hit a few awkward shots, but other than that, it was a good round of golf,” said Watson. “After four under on the front side, I’m thinking, my age is 65 and this is a par 70. So maybe I got a little greedy out there, I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, on a day of firsts, Englishman Barry Lane also entered the record books after holing his 218 yard second shot with a four iron on the par five first hole to become the first player in Senior Tour history to begin a tournament with an albatross. Remarkably, the feat was then repeated three hours and 20 minutes later when American Steve Jones holed his 179 yard approach with a six iron.
Complete round one scores (par 70)
65 M Allen (USA) , J Sluman (USA) , L Janzen (USA) , B Langer (Ger) , M Jiménez (Esp) , M Dawson (USA) , L Zhang (Chn) , B Bryant (USA) ,
66 B Henninger (USA) , C Monasterio (Arg) , M Mouland (Wal) ,
67 C Montgomerie (Sco) , T Watson (USA) , B Andrade (USA) , P Goydos (USA) , B Cameron (Eng) , M Calcavecchia (USA) , W Short Jr (USA) , J Hart (USA) ,
68 G Boros (USA) , M McNulty (Irl) , B Lane (Eng) , M O’Meara (USA) , M Brooks (USA) , D Frost (RSA) , T Pernice Jnr (USA) , P O’Malley (Aus) , J Durant (USA) , K Triplett (USA) , F Couples (USA) ,
69 S Torrance (Sco) , J Rivero (Esp) , P Senior (Aus) , W Austin (USA) , K Idoki (Jpn) , G Brand Jnr (Sco) , G Wolstenholme (Eng) , J Remesy (Fra) , P Fowler (Aus) , C Williams (RSA) , L Tenbroeck (USA) , R Spittle (Can) , G Sauers (USA) , A Forsbrand (Swe) , D Waldorf (USA) , S Tinning (Den) , G Bruckner (USA) , T Lehman (USA) , S Ames (Can) , I Woosnam (Wal) , B Exber (am) (USA) ,
70 S Lyle (Sco) , J McGovern (USA) , S Okuda (Jpn) , G Rusnak (USA) , S Dunlap (USA) , P Golding (Eng) , J Inman (USA) , R Mediate (USA) , M Kuramoto (Jpn) , J Smith (USA) , T Thelen (USA) , G Turner (Nzl) , C Mason (Eng) , M Martin (Esp) , M Wiebe (USA) , M Farry (Fra) , R Cochran (USA) , O Browne (USA) , F Funk (USA) , N Sugai (Jpn) , S Jones (USA) , W Grant (Eng) ,
71 P Linhart (Esp) , J Maggert (USA) , P Walton (Irl) , J Blake (USA) , R Sabarros (Fra) , A Bossert (Sui) , S McCarron (USA) , B Lincoln (RSA) , Y Nilsson (Swe) , M Harwood (Aus) , R Drummond (Sco) , S Faldo (Eng) , D Smyth (Irl) ,
72 K Sutherland (USA) , C Rocca (Ita) , S Skinner (USA) , R Gibson (Can) , L Roberts (USA) , T Johnstone (Zim) , S Luna (Esp) , J Pate (USA) , G Joyner (Aus) , D Mast (USA) , B Davidson (Sco) , C Lutz (am) (USA) ,
73 P Dahlberg (Swe) , P Wesselingh (Eng) , G Milne (Eng) , P Scott (Eng) , N Hubbard (Eng) , G Manson (Aut) , J Parnevik (Swe) , E Toledo (Mex) , J Sallat (Fra) , P Eales (Eng) , R Backwell (Aus) , M Booth (Eng) , A Sherborne (Eng) , D Russell (Eng) , G Brand (Eng) , R Willison (Eng) , F Quinn (USA) , G Waite (Nzl) , L Mize (USA) ,
74 J Carriles (Esp) , A Franco (Par) , J Spence (Eng) , R Chapman (Eng) , M James (Eng) , B Faxon (USA) , P Horgan (USA) ,
75 C Franco (Par) , M Bianco (Ita) , F Grosset-Grange (Fra) , B Gilder (USA) , S East (am) (Eng) ,
76 G Ryall (Eng) , A Oldcorn (Sco) , B Tway (USA) , M Mackenzie (Eng) , J Hall (Eng) , R Rafferty (Nir) ,
77 J Sindelar (USA) , A George (Eng) , J Cook (USA) ,
78 P Mitchell (Eng) , R Briars (Eng) ,
79 M Balen (USA) ,
80 P Evans (Wal) ,
81 S Spittles (Eng) ,
** M Davis (Eng) ,
– Ends –