Bernhard Langer fired a 4-under-par 67 Thursday to earn a share of the lead after the opening round of the Senior British Open at Carnoustie.
The German, bidding for a first major title on the 'round-bellies' tour, joined England's Carl Mason and Jay Don Blake of the United States atop the leaderboard at the difficult Scottish course.
Langer made a flying start with a birdie at the opening hole, and a hat trick of birdies from the seventh took him to the turn in 32 shots. He picked up another shot at the 14th, and though he gave it back at the next he was well pleased with his day's work.
"I'm very happy with it," said the former European Ryder Cup captain. "I birdied the very first hole and had some further chances the next few holes, then had a nice run there on seven, eight, nine when I birdied those three -- there's a lot of tough holes on the back nine."
Mason was another to admit the closing holes represent the one of the toughest run-ins in the game after he had stormed to the turn in just 31. However, his chances of an outright lead were ruined when his 3-iron approach to the 10th hole ended with his ball plugged in the steep face of a greenside bunker.
"It was so bad there was no way I could get the ball out at the first attempt," he said after taking a double-bogey 6.
He hit back with two quick birdies but despite playing the closing four holes in one over when the wind had dropped, he denied he missed an opportunity.
"That is a very tough closing stretch," he said.
Amongst the many Americans on the leaderboard are US Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin, who went round in 69, and former skipper Tom Lehman, who carded a 71.
Sam Torrance was the only other European to break par with a round of 69, coming home in 1 under par.
Carnoustie, widely rated as the toughest links layout on the British Open championship rotation, is vastly different from most of the courses on the Champions Tour.
“It’s a golf course where you can’t be aggressive because you can’t fly the ball at flags like we are used to over in the courses we play in America,” said Blake, who had six birdies and two bogeys. “I have had to learn a whole new game, which is fun. It’s exciting, but it’s tough. I just tried to stay out of the death bunkers, as I call them, because it’s a certain one-shot penalty getting in them.”
Torrance is hoping to complete a golfing double for his 78-year-old father. Bob Torrance was the coach who built Padraig Harrington’s swing before his 2007 victory at Carnoustie in the British Open.
With his game in poor shape, Sam went home this week to seek some fatherly advice.
“He’s a great coach,” Sam Torrance said. “He sees things that nobody else sees. He gave me a great swing thought and it worked. I would love to win here now at Carnoustie, but there is a long way to go.”