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Dave Stockton Senior PGA Championship
Dave Stockton couldn't manage to save par from this bunker on No. 13, but he still came close to shooting his age Thursday. (Photo: The PGA of America)

Stockton feels at home -- again -- on a Cleveland-area course

We shouldn't have been surprised to see 67-year-old Dave Stockton turn in a solid round Thursday at Canterbury Golf Club. After all, the two-time PGA Champion has won four times in the Cleveland area, including the 1996 U.S. Senior Open.

By Craig Dolch, Special to PGA.com

BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- Dave Stockton probably wishes there were more golf tournaments in the Cleveland area. He'd probably be in the Hall of Fame.

Stockton won the Cleveland Open Invitational in 1968, the CBS Golf Classic (with Al Geiberger) at Firestone in nearby Akron in 1968 and 1969, and in 1996 he captured the U.S. Senior Open here at Canterbury Golf Club.

So it shouldn't have been a surprise Thursday when Stockton shot an even-par 70 to tie for 12th place -- four shots out of the lead -- midway through the first round of the 70th Senior PGA Championship.

"It's well documented," Stockton said of his success around Cleveland. "Kathy and I had a summer home here in the 1960s when we couldn't afford to fly. I do love this area."

The two-time PGA Championship winner and former U.S. Ryder Cup captain had it 2-under through 16 holes, but bogeyed the last two holes. He wasn't even aware he was in position to do something remarkable in a major championship.

"(NBC commentator) Roger Matlbie asked me after the round if I thought about shooting my age," Stockton said. "It didn't even dawn on me. I only needed one more birdie to get there, and I promise you it never crossed my mind. I was just trying to cross hole after hole off.     

The last month has been a frustrating time for Stockton, who says he had only six birdies in a 108-hole stretch in two recent Champions Tour events because of putting woes. He joked about "keeping score for" Jay Sigel when they were paired together in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf because he contributed so little.

Stockton struggling on the greens? That's quite a development for someone who's long been known as one of the game's best putters who has worked with many other golf pros to improve their stroke.

"I'm getting hired to help pros and I can't make a putt?" Stockton said. "This is not good. That's been kind of weird."

But his putting stroke returned Thursday, not long after he returned to his favorite area to play golf.
 
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