BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Joe Durant knows his future is on the Champions Tour. That doesn’t stop him from wanting to play on the PGA Tour.
“I guess there’s that part of your ego that still thinks you can play on the regular tour and you still want to prove you can do that,” Durant said after birdieing his final hole Thursday for a 6-under 65 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Senior PGA Championship.
Making his third Champions Tour start after turning 50 on April 7, the four-time PGA Tour winner had seven birdies and a bogey at Harbor Shores.
Dan Forsman, fighting an arthritic left hip, opened with a 66, and Brad Faxon had a 67. Mark Brooks and P.H. Horgan III shot 68, and two-time Senior PGA winner Jay Haas and Colin Montgomerie were in the group at 69.
Kenny Perry, the winner last week in the Regions Tradition in Alabama, topped the group at 70 with Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, John Cook and Tom Watson.
Durant, coming off a ninth-place tie Sunday at Shoal Creek in the first major of the year, missed only one fairway and birdied all the par 5s. He also birdied the par-4 seventh hole that plays up a sand dune and usually into the wind off Lake Michigan.
“I just had a nice rhythm,” said Durant who has played on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour and the Champions Tour this season and plans to play the PGA Tour and Champions the rest of the year. “I didn’t try to do anything fancy. I just went from point A to point B and hit a lot of good shots. It worked out to be a nice round.”
Durant has struggled with his PGA Tour status position to get into events.
“I know my future is more out here than out there, but I would just like to play out there a little bit,” he said. “It doesn’t get any easier out there, that’s for sure.”
Forsman, a three-time winner on the Champions Tour after winning five times on the PGA Tour, had four birdies and a bogey — on the seventh — in his final nine holes.
“It’s elusive,” Forsman said of good play this year. “It’s a challenging game by any measure. Certainly the older you get, the aches and pains come along.”
Faxon made two 35-foot birdie putts early in his round. He has only one top-40 finish in eight tournaments this year and missed the cuts in his two previous Senior PGA appearances.
“There was really nothing to predict this round,” Faxon said. “But I’m excited about playing. My wife (Dory) came in yesterday and we were talking about just playing golf and not worrying too much about stuff. And it happened.”
Perry is trying to win his fourth consecutive Champions Tour major. He won the Senior Players Championship and U.S. Senior Open in consecutive tour starts last year, then skipped the Senior British Open. He said he is making adjustments to the greens at Harbor Shores.
“The last two weeks the greens have been pretty fast, and this week the greens are not nearly has fast on the roll out, so you’ve got to hit them a little bit,” he said. “Any time you can shoot under par in a major you’ve done a good job. I was very pleased with my round even though I bogeyed the last hole with an 8-iron in my hand.”
Lee Rinker, who played the PGA Tour fulltime from 1984 to 1999, was the top club pro with a 69. He’s the director of golf at Emerald Dunes Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Roger Chapman, the 2012 winner at Harbor Shores, opened with a 71. Japan’s Kohki Idoki, the winner last year at Bellerive in St. Louis, had a 76.