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NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- At the end of Thursday's first round of the 64th Senior PGA Championship, the lead is shared by an intriguing trio of players who couldn't be more diverse.
Brawny Californian John Jacobs, for years one of the biggest boppers on the Champions Tour, and Mike San Filippo, the reigning Senior PGA Club Professional player but not a regular on the senior circuit, set the clubhouse target at 2-under 68 midway through the day. In the late afternoon, Bobby Wadkins, best known as the brother of former Ryder Cup captain and current CBS analyst Lanny Wadkins, carded his 68.
The group one off the lead at 1-under 69 is just as colorful, as it includes former Senior PGA Champs Allen Doyle (1999), Doug Tewell (2000) and Fuzzy Zoeller (2002), along with major champion extraordinaire Larry Nelson, John Harris, Vicente Fernandez and Morris Hatalsky.
As the day warmed and course dried out, it looked as if scores might improve. But as was the case in the cooler, damper morning, Aronimink quickly jumped up and grabbed those few players who dared try to go too deep into the red numbers. At the end of the day, only 10 players were under par.
Jacobs got off to an exciting start with two birdies and a bogey, and made the turn in 1-under 34. He posted a back-nine 34 as well, but his card had only a late birdie to go with eight pars on his trek back to the clubhouse.
By contrast, San Filippo, the reigning Senior PGA Club Professional champion, had only eight pars in his entire round. He opened birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey in his first four holes, then ran off five pars in a row to close out his front nine. His back nine started with two birdies and two bogeys, and he birdied the final two holes to move from even-par to two under.
No one started hotter than Allen Doyle. The 1999 Senior PGA Champion birdied each of his opening three holes -- he started on the back nine -- and found himself with a surprising two-shot lead. But he then gave back a shot on the par-4 13th, and carded another bogey on the 18th to end his first nine at 1-under 35 before carding nine straight pars to finish his day.
The pack of players at even-par 70 includes Tom Kite and Gil Morgan. Kite birdied Nos. 7 and 8 and then Nos. 16 and 17, but stumbled with a bogey on No. 5 and three more in a stretch of seven holes from the ninth. Morgan had three birdies and three bogeys in the first 10 holes, then parred out.
Tom Watson, Ray Floyd and Dana Quigley were in the clubhouse at 1-over 71, while Jim Colbert, Bill Rogers and 66-year-old Tommy Aaron posted 2-over 72s. Watson, always a favorite in this event, bogeyed Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to ruin his round.
Three-time Senior PGA Champion Hale Irwin found himself in a cluster at 3-over 73, his round doomed by a disappointing front nine in which he double-bogeyed the par-4 third. He also bogeyed Nos. 10, 11 and 12, and added birdies at Nos. 4 and 7.
That group at 3-over also includes Charlie Coody, David Graham, Mark Hayes, Gary McCord and, surprisingly, Aronimink member Jay Sigel. Sigel managed only one birdie, at the ninth, go to with bogeys on the eighth,10th, 15th and 17th holes.
Jack Nicklaus struggled to a 5-over 75, a score not too bad considering he had a pair of double bogeys, on the par-4 fourth and 15th holes. The Bear also managed three birdies to go with four bogeys.
Thursday 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 the course continues to dry out from the soaking it received earlier in the week.