Home cooking treats Morgan right in first round
Gil Morgan, a native of Edmond, Okla., and a member at Oak Tree Golf Club, put his home-course knowledge to good use on Thursday, firing a brilliant 5-under 66 in blistering temperatures to grab a one-shot lead at the 67th Senior PGA Championship.
By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
EDMOND, Okla. -- There's no place like home. You can ask Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, or Gil Morgan from Edmond, Okla.
Morgan, playing his home course of Oak Tree Golf Club, posted an impressive 5-under-par 66 Thursday to take sole possession of the lead after the first round of the 67th Senior PGA Championship.
Morgan led the season's first senior major tournament by one shot over Peter Jacobsen, who made five birdies and a lone bogey in his 67, while Jay Haas, Loren Roberts and Tom Watson all trailed by two at 3 under par.
The fact that he had home-field advantage wasn't lost on Morgan.
"To have the hometown crowd pulling for you is obviously a plus, no matter where you go," he said. "Kind of the home-court advantage or home-state advantage, that type of thing. It's always great to have the fans and friends and stuff kind of rooting you on."
As was the case for Morgan, there's nothing like playing your best at home when it counts. His round included six birdies and just one bogey.
"It's the best round I've ever played here -- in competition at least," Morgan said. "It seemed like a good time to have it."
The weather at Oak Tree Golf Club turned brutal later in the day, as temperatures hit a stifling 99 degrees. That beat the previous record for May 25 in Edmond by six degrees.
"The wind we can deal with," Jacobsen said. "But, boy, it gets hot out there. It's tough on us senior fellows."
Roberts is not known as the "Boss of the Moss" for nothing. Wielding a red-hot putter, Roberts, the Champions Tour's top player in 2006, had control of the lead for a while at 4 under par on the scorching afternoon, but made costly back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, his 13th and 14th holes after starting on the back nine. He rebounded with a birdie at No. 7 to muster his 3 under par 68.
It wasn't a bad start for the man making his Senior PGA Championship debut.
"I scored well today," Roberts said. "I hit the ball rather poorly. I don't think I hit more than about three or four fairways off the tee and I was able to make some good putts. My putter saved me today, I made a couple of good up and downs, and I made some birdies when I got it on the green. So I'm going to go try to pull another driver out of the trunk of my car and try it and see if it's any better."
Jeff Thomsen from Boise, Idaho, was the low PGA Club Professional with a solid two-birdie, one bogey 1-under 70.
"Every day is opening day," Thomsen said. "My clubs don't know that I'm a club pro. My clubs don't know it's hot. I'm happy to shoot an opening round under par. I just played well. It was a nice day and the wind laid down, still coming out of the southeast, but I'm happy with how I played."
Apparently, posting a low number was contagious on Thursday. Before Morgan and Jacobsen -- paired together -- combined to go 9 under par, Haas and Watson played together and combined to go 6 under.
Haas used three birdies in a row to start his back nine to get to 3 under, bogeyed No. 14, but made up for it with a birdie at No. 17. He was happy with his start, especially considering his missed cut last year at Laurel Valley.
"I'm playing better than I was last year at this time," he said. "I loved Laurel Valley. I really was excited about being there and had played there several other times and I guess we would all much rather shoot a good first round than be struggling to make the cut.
This is one of the few events out here on the Champions Tour that we do have a cut, and so it's a different mindset a little bit. You still have to start thinking ahead that it's four rounds, so you have a chance to maybe make a couple bogeys, chip out here and there, play for bogey instead of gambling. You have the extra round to make it up here. But, yeah, just getting into the hunt early is definitely a plus."
Watson made birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. After a par at 18, he was back in the clubhouse at 3 under. His round included seven birdies and a double bogey.
"I hit the ball a little scratchy," Watson said. "I hit some good shots, but I didn't drive the ball particularly well and I made some errors that you can't make on this golf course. But I made up for it with all those birdies. It very easily could have been not a very good score. But it's nice to have seven birdies in your pocket."
Dana Quigley, the 2005 Champions Tour leading money winner and runner up in last year's Senior PGA Championship, was in a group with Curtis Strange, Jim Thorpe, Brad Bryant, Craig Stadler and Katsuyoshi Tomori at 2 under par, three behind Morgan.
Defending champ Mike Reid bogeyed his last hole of the day to finish with an even-par 71 that left him five shots off the pace.
The second round will begin at 7:30 a.m. CDT on Friday.