Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gary Player (24 putts) betters his age for 10th time

Bernhard Langer, Brad Bryant

share lead in US Seniors event

By Dave Senko, PGA TOUR Staff
KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- After starting the day one over par after six holes, co-leader Bernhard Langer , pictured right, righted the ship starting at No. 7. The 2008 Champions Tour Player and Rookie of the Year finished the day with nine birdies in his final 12 holes, including seven of nine on the back nine on his way to an eight-under-par 64, a score matched only by Brad Bryant.
Hale Irwin fired a bogey-free 65 to kick off his 2009 campaign.

Par 72
T1. Brad Bryant 64 -8
T1. Bernhard Langer 64 -8
T3. Hale Irwin 65 -7
T3. Jeff Sluman 65 -7
T3. Jay Haas 65 -7
T6. R.W. Eaks 66 -6
T6. Tom Kite 66 -6
T8. Jerry Pate 67 -5
T8. Andy Bean 67 -5
T10. Mike Reid 68 -4
T10. Gil Morgan 68 -4
T10. Ben Crenshaw 68 -4
T10. John Cook 68 -4

R.W. Eaks had the shot of the day in the opening round. A two-time winner in 2008, Eaks made a double eagle (albatross) at No. 7, the second in this event. John Jacobs made the other in 2002 on No. 10. On Friday, after hitting his drive, Eaks drained a 5-wood from 246 yards for his double eagle.
It should come as no surprise that Hale Irwin is off to a good start in this event. Perhaps the most successful US PGA Tour player in history in the state with nine official wins (eight Champions Tour and one PGA Tour win); Irwin fired a seven-under-par 65 on Friday. He needed just 24 putts in his bogey-free round at a course he has mastered several times, including wins in this tournament in 1997 and 2007. The 63-year-old Irwin has earned over $4.2 million in the state in his career.
Brad Bryant turned in his best performance in this tournament since his opening round in 2007 when he shot a nine-under-par 63 and led by two strokes. On Friday, Bryant fashioned an eight-under-par 64 to finish the day tied with Langer.
Gary Player bettered his age for the 10th time when he shot a two-under-par 70. The 73-year-old South African has also matched his age 12 times in his career. In 2007, Player bettered his age twice in this tournament, shooting three-under-par 69s in the first two rounds.
Jeff Sluman, who came into this event with a streak of 25 rounds par or better dating back to last year, increased that to 26 with his seven-under-par 65. The all-time Champions Tour record is 37 by Loren Roberts in 2006-2007, but should Sluman post two more on the weekend, he would move into third place all-time in that category. Larry Nelson had 32 in 2000. Le Trevino (1992), Bruce Summerhays (1995), Raymond Floyd (1995) and Bruce Fleisher (2002) all had 27 straight at some point in their careers.
Defending champion Fred Funk is not in this year's field. Funk is sidelined with a right knee injury that plagued him for much of the 2008 season. He underwent surgery last May and had further work done on the knee earlier this month.
With near placid conditions, the field averaged 69 strokes and 29 of 34 players finished with rounds in the 60s. As a point of comparison, in 2008, the field averaged 67.537 and 31 of 41 players had rounds in the 60s.
Irwin, Sluman, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Purtzer all carded bogey-free rounds.
Gary Player and Hale Irwin led all players with 24 putts in the first round while Gil Morgan hit 17 of 18 greens in regulations to lead in that category. Seven players hit 13 of 14 fairways.



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