NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- The 64th Senior PGA Championship got underway Thursday morning as scheduled. That was quite a feat, considering the havoc wreaked on Aronimink Golf Club by the relentless rains that pounded the Mid-Atlantic area this week.
The day dawned cool and damp, but conditions continue to improve as the day wears on. The early starters teed off in 60 degree-weather but the afternoon players are seeing temperatures in the mid-70s and light breezes under partly cloudy skies, and scores should improve as the course continues to dry out from the soaking it received earlier in the week.
The venerable Donald Ross layout was in good condition after being closed on Wednesday, but it wasn't in a forgiving mood. Few of the early starters made much of a dent in par, with only a handful of players in red numbers midway through the opening round.
No one started hotter than Allen Doyle, though. The 1999 Senior PGA Champion birdied each of the opening three holes to claim a surprising two-shot lead. But he then gave back a shot on the par-4 fourth, and carded another bogey to end his front nine at 1-under 35.
He was soon passed, though, by Mike San Filippo, a long-time PGA Professional, who rode three front-nine birdies to the top of the chart.
Another big early surprise came from Tommy Aaron, the 1973 Masters champion who hasn't made the Senior PGA cut since 1996. Aaron, 66, found the leaderboard when he opened with four pars and a birdie on the par-3 fifth.
Tom Kite and Gil Morgan were among the players hanging around par at lunch hour. Kite bogeyed Nos.4 and 6 before birdieing the par-3 eighth, while Morgan had three birdies and three bogeys in his first 10 holes.
Three-time Senior PGA champion Hale Irwin started with five pars, then carded five bogeys in his next seven holes to slip down the standings. Jack Nicklaus bogeyed Nos. 2 and 3, then triple-bogeyed the par-3 eighth. He finished his front nine at 39, then birdied the par-4 10th hole.
Gary Player, who won the 1962 PGA Championship here at Aronimink, was 5 over par through eight holes. He was tied with former U.S. Open champ Andy North and NBC-TV golf analyst Gary Koch.
Jim Masserio, the head professional at Aronimink who is doing double duty as participant and host this week, was hanging in at 4 over par midway through his back nine. Masserio, in the first group off the tee this morning, bogeyed three of his first four holes, then settled down with a birdie on the par-3 fifth and ran off a string of five pars in a row from the eighth hole.
Among the afternoon starters are Bob Murphy at 12:50 p.m., international stars Des Smyth of Ireland and John Bland of South Africa at 12:55 p.m., Billy Kratzert at 1 p.m., and Bobby Wadkins at 1:10 p.m.
John Schroeder and J.C. Snead go at 1:30 p.m., with Arnold Palmer, Bob Charles and Doug Tewell off at 1:35 p.m. Vicente Fernandez is off at 1:40 p.m., with the glamorous group of Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw and rookie Craig Stadler at 1:45 p.m.
Leonard Thompson is at 1:50 p.m., with Jose Maria Canizares and Jim Ahern at 2 p.m., and Dave Eichelberger at 2:10 p.m. Defending champion Fuzzy Zoeller, Larry Nelson and Bruce Fleisher tee it up at 2:15 p.m., and Mark McCumber begins at 2:20 p.m.