Senior PGA Championship
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Mike San Filippo
Mike San Filippo tees off on the fourth tee during the first round.
(photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
 

Long Shot and Long Hitter

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. (AP) -- Bobby Wadkins, Mike San Filippo and John Jacobs shot 2-under 68s Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the Senior PGA Championship.

Seven other players, including defending champion Fuzzy Zoeller, were a stroke back in the first of five major championships on the Champions Tour season.

Twelve-time PGA Tour winner Craig Stadler, making his Champions Tour debut, was two off the lead after shooting an even-par 70.

Wadkins bogeyed two of his first three holes but rebounded with five birdies and only one bogey over the last 14 holes on the soggy 6,928-yard course at Aronimink Golf Club. He rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to take a share of the lead.

"I felt pretty good," Wadkins said of his turnaround. "I just had to kind of slow down and say, 'Wait a minute. You still have 15 holes to go. Let's see if we can get something started."'

Wadkins led the Senior PGA after three rounds last year, but shot a final-round 71 to finish two strokes behind Zoeller and in a tie with Hale Irwin for second. Wadkins, who has one victory in three seasons on the tour, said last year's near-miss did not provide extra motivation.

"I try to win every week," Wadkins said. "That's a great story line -- that you let one slip away last year and are dedicating your whole life to winning this year -- but that wouldn't be true."

Wadkins teed off in the afternoon after wind dried out the soggy course, while his co-leaders teed off in the morning and got the benefit of softer greens.

"The wind blew harder than it did in the morning, but it was also a little warmer and the ball might have been flying a bit better," Wadkins said. "So, I think it all equals out."

Of the leaders, San Filippo is the only one playing his first full season on the tour. He carded six birdies and four bogeys. San Filippo had played in only three Champions Tour events going into the week and has yet to crack the top 40.

Still, the tour rookie was not surprised by his first-round success.

"I'm not an experienced hand, but I've been playing well of late," San Filippo said. "I certainly was hoping that I could come and play like I know I can play."

Jacobs had a steady round, carding three birdies and one bogey. His last birdie, a tap-in on No. 16 after a 7-iron left him 18 inches from the cup, lifted him into a tie for the lead.

Vicente Fernandez, Allen Doyle, John Harris, Morris Hatalsky, Larry Nelson and Doug Tewell also are one stroke back.

Tom Watson, the 2001 champion, finished at 1-over 71. Jack Nicklaus carded a 75 and Arnold Palmer came in at 9-over 79.

Eight-time Champions Tour winner Jay Sigel was not among the leaders, carding a 3-over 73. His mother, 87-year-old Betty Sigel, died in a Florida nursing home Wednesday after a long illness.

"It's a tough situation," Sigel said. "But it probably will be better tomorrow and again on Saturday. The toughest thing was making the decision on playing, not knowing whether it was right or wrong. It was the correct decision."

Copyright ©2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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