Gene Sauers mastered a stiff breeze to shoot a 3-under 67 Thursday for a 1-stroke lead after the first round of the Senior British Open in Southport, England.
The 50-year-old American had all pars on the front nine for a 34 at sunny Royal Birkdale.
He then birdied the 10th and bogeyed the 11th. His three successive birdies from the 15th left him at 33 for the back nine.
“I hit a lot of solid shots in the wind, so it didn’t really mess with me too much,” Sauers said. “I’m really pleased with the way I played. This is only my third British Open and it’s a great privilege and honor to be here.”
Four players were at 68, among them 2010 British Senior Champion Bernhard Langer.
The German was joined by South Africa’s David Frost, Australia’s Peter Senior and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines. Only 10 of the 144 players bettered par.
Sauers is 23rd on the Champions Tour money list and has made 11 cuts from 11 starts this year with two second-place finishes and a third.
At 69 were former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin and fellow Americans Gary Hallberg, John Cook and Jeff Hart as well as Australia’s Peter Fowler.
Defending champion Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara, who won the 1998 British Open at Birkdale, shot 74s. Colin Montgomerie, their playing partner and a senior rookie, was 2 strokes better.
Tom Kite, Steve Pate, Mark Wiebe, Rocco Mediate, Steve Jones and Tom Pernice Jr. were among a large group at 70 along with Scotland’s Sandy Lyle, Ireland’s Mark McNulty and New Zealand’s Greg Turner.
Langer finished with a birdie on three of his last four holes of the day.
“I was very pleased with my long game and finally the putter started working at the end,” he said.
Frost picked up a birdie at the sixth to be out in 33. Frost birdied No. 10 to go 2 under but then dropped shots at the 13th and 16th before an eagle at the long 17th hole got him back in 35.
Senior moved to 3 under with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 17 but dropped a stroke at the last hole.
“I think there will be a lot of good scores out there,” Senior said. “The course is playing nice and it gives you a lot of opportunity.”
Minoza fought back from 4 over after just three holes to post the early clubhouse lead at 68.
Minoza had birdies on Nos. 10, 14, 15, 16 and 18 to finish the back nine in 31.
Cook was undone by a double-bogey at the last hole, turning a potential 67 into a 69.
“It was one of those terrible mistakes that you make and learn from. But I’m pleased to be under par in a major championship,” he said.
Hallberg, second to Fred Couples at Turnberry last year, had an eagle, four birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey on his card.
“That’s my game,” he said. “It’s up and down. But it was just a joy to play out there. It was beautiful.”
Brendan Steele topped the Canadian Open leaderboard at 7-under 65, getting birdies on five of the first seven holes on his back nine at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ontario. The 30-year-old Steele, winless on the PGA Tour, had eight birdies and a bogey, dropping a shot on his final hole — the par-4 ninth.
Matt Kuchar, a two-time winner this year, was a stroke back along with Scott Gardiner and Scott Brown. Kuchar eagled the par-5 18th hole, his ninth hole of the day.
Hunter Mahan and David Lingmerth shot 67, and Chez Reavie, the 2008 winner at Glen Abbey, was another stroke back in a group that included Bubba Watson and Trevor Immelman.
Simon Dyson shot a 5-under 67 to share the lead on the opening day of the Russian Open in Moscow. Dyson is tied with Rikard Karlberg and Liang Wen-chong.
Karlberg bogeyed the opening two holes but recovered with five birdies and an eagle on the long eighth.
Liang, whose only European Tour title came six years ago, bogeyed the 12th but had six birdies.
Matthew Baldwin, James Morrison, Alessandro Tadini and Javier Colomo were 1 stroke behind.
U.S. Junior Girls Amateur
Casie Cathrea beat defending champion Minjee Lee with a par on the 19th hole to advance to the U.S. Girls’ Junior quarterfinals at Sycamore Hills in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Cathrea, the 16-year-old Livermore, Calif., player who was the low amateur in the U.S. Women’s Open, won the par-4 18th with a bogey to extend the match, and finished off the 17-year-old Australian on the par-4 first.
Cathrea, a 3-and-1, second-round winner over Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster, Colo., in the morning, will face Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, Calif., this morning.
Wu beat Samantha Wagner of Windermere, Fla., 1-up.