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Michael Allen
His first round wasn't as difficult as he had feared, defending champ Michael Allen said. (Getty Images)

Notebook: Defending champion Allen pleased with solid start to his title defense

PARKER, Colo. (AP) -- After finishing up his round, Michael Allen said he was heading over to the practice area to squeeze in some extra chipping and putting.

Never hurts, especially with a title to defend. Allen kept himself in solid contention by shooting 1-under 71 in the morning wave.

"It wasn't easy," Allen said. "But it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be."

BALKY BACK: Had this tournament been anywhere else, Denver resident Mark Wiebe would've been a spectator instead of a participant.

His bad back was acting up in the morning, sending shooting pains into his right calf. If that wasn't enough, Wiebe also pulled a rib out of place hitting balls on the range just before he was scheduled to tee off.

He quickly sauntered over to the medical trailer, got the rib back into alignment and went on to a 77.

All things considered, Wiebe wasn't displeased with his play on a course he knows quite well, having logged numerous rounds on it.

"I played nice," Wiebe said.

Wiebe was toying with the idea of withdrawing from the field, given his ailing back was so bad he had two injections to ease the pain leading up to the tournament.

"I love playing at home," Wiebe said. "As much as I was hurting, I had fun."

GOTTA BE THE GRIP: Robin Freeman has never felt so comfortable over the ball on the green.

For that, the co-leader credits a new putter with an oversized grip. This was the first time he's used it in competition.

After making a couple of long putts, the putter is definitely sticking around.

"Probably the best putting round I had in maybe ever," Freeman said, smiling. "The stroke felt good, even in the high winds. I was a little concerned about it because it's much lighter than I normally use. ... But I'm not concerned about it anymore."

CHIP SHOTS: Paul Azinger's inaugural Senior PGA Championship was over before it even began as he withdrew from the tournament with the flu. Hal Sutton (hip) and Peter Jacobsen (illness) also won't play. Taking Sutton's place in the field was PGA Club Professional Doug Perry of Fort Collins, Colo., who made the 90-mile trek just in time to tee off in a group that featured Tom Lehman and Nick Price. ... The group of Langer, Couples and Fred Funk (even par) made 14 birdies and two eagles between them. ... Bull snakes have been commonly spotted slithering through the course.

Six of the top eight players on the leaderboard played Friday morning. … Tom Lehman, who is tied for third, bogeyed Nos. 1 & 18, but played the other 16 holes in 6 under par. … Gary Hallberg, a resident of nearby Castle Rock, fired a 1-under-par 71 to lead the contingent of local Champions Tour players. Others with local ties include R.W. Eaks (74), Hale Irwin (76), Mark Wiebe (77) and Dale Douglass (81). … Fred Couples, the Champions Tour’s current money leader, opened with a 69 and is tied for fifth. … Bill Glasson is tied for fifth in just his second Champions Tour start. Glasson turned 50 on April 29 and tied for 31st in his debut at the Regions Charity Classic two weeks ago. Glasson was the only player in the 155-man field to post a bogey-free round.

Although the scorecard lists the course length as 7,490, competitors played the course at 7,406 yards on Thursday. That included the 637-yard opening hole, the longest hole Champions Tour competitors have faced this year. The previous long was 620 yards (No. 6) at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge, site of the Regions Charity Classic. … Bruce Fleisher led all players with just 22 putts, while Brad Bryant was the leader in Greens in Regulation, hitting 16 of 18 (88.9%). Bob Boyd, Bob Gilder and Kirk Hanefeld all hit 14 of 14 fairways to pace all players in Driving Accuracy. Robin Freeman led with seven birdies.

Dave Senko of the PGA Tour staff contributed to this report.

 

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