PITTSBURGH — 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.
Willett, Cabrera-Bello post first-round 64s: In Cologne, Germany, Danny Willett and Rafa Cabrera-Bello both shot 8-under 64s to share the clubhouse lead while local favorite Martin Kaymer endured a frustrating round on the opening day of the BMW International Open on Thursday.
Willett, the Englishman who won the 2012 tournament on the same Gut Laerchenhof course, finished with his eighth birdie to match his Spanish playing partner’s bogey-free round.
Kaymer, making his first competitive appearance since winning the U.S. Open, made five birdies but was let down by two bogeys and a double bogey in a 1-under 71.
“It was a tough day for me on the greens,” said Kaymer, who was given a rousing reception despite the 7:40 a.m. tee off. “It was very, very playable today.”
There was a six-way tie for third, with Alvaro Quiros and Michael Hoey joining early leaders Anders Hansen of Denmark, Gary Stahl of France and Englishmen Andy Sullivan and Graham Storm on 6-under 66.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry, France’s Romain Wattel and Spaniards Nacho Elvira and Jorge Campillo were in a group at 5 under.
Irish Open winner Mikko Ilonen finished 4 under, while playing partner and 11-time European Tour winner Sergio Garcia was 1 under.
World No. 2 Henrik Stenson managed an eagle on the 13th hole and finished 4 under with another two birdies.