7 takeaways from the Senior PGA Championship’s first day
1: LANGER LEADS, BUT FIRST ROUND NOT YET COMPLETE DUE TO RAIN
Bernhard Langer fired a 7-under-par 65 and sits atop the leaderboard at the 78th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, but opening-round play was not completed. Morning rains, which delayed play by 80 minutes, were followed by a late-afternoon front, which halted play at 5:26 p.m. Play was then suspended for good at 6:15 p.m. In all, half of the field (78 of 156 players) completed their rounds. On the course, Langer punctuated his delayed, but uninterrupted, round with an eagle-3 on the closing 18th. The eagle was the first of the day recorded on the finishing hole. Langer opened his round with five pars, but a birdie on No. 6 sparked a stretch of six birdies in nine holes. Langer hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and recorded seven 1-putts.
2: TAMURA MAKES MAJOR LEAP
Japan’s Naoyuki Tamura is making his first competitive appearance in the United States. He posted a 2-under-par 70, which isn’t bad for someone who turned professional at age 49 and splits his time as a salesperson for a metal grating company in Hiroshima. Tamura’s first golf experience in the U.S. came in 2010 at Augusta National Golf Club. He was a correspondent for Golf Digest, and after that year’s Masters was selected in the annual media lottery to play the legendary course. “It was an unbelievable experience in 2010 at Augusta National, but I had never expected to be a professional,” said the 52-year-old Tamura through an interpreter. “It was a long seven years from then (Augusta as an amateur) to now. This is an amazing course and it was my dream to play in the Senior PGA Championship.” PGA of Japan Chairman Masahiro “Massy” Kuramoto inspired Tamura to take the required exam to earn PGA Membership. In 2013, Tamura reached that personal milestone. “ I always wanted to play in the majors.” Tamura said. “It is a busy time for me, but I enjoy it.”
3: BREAKING PAR
With his first round 2-under-par 70, two-time KitchenAid Senior PGA Champion (2014, ’15) Colin Montgomerie continued his stellar play at the Championship. Dating back to 2014, his first year competing in the event, Montgomerie has yet to shoot over par in any round, a perfect 13-for-13. He has broken par 12 times, with his lone even-par round coming in the first round of the 2015 Championship. Montgomerie’s last PGA Tour Champions over-par round came in August of 2016, when he carded a 1-over-par 73 in the second round of the Boeing Classic. Including today’s round, Montgomerie has 41 consecutive par or better rounds in PGA Tour Champions events.
4: FAMILIARTIY PAYS OFF
Rick Schuller of Chester, Virginia, who posted an even-par 72, made his estimated 10th competitive trip around Trump National Golf Club. “We have our State Open here and have had a Section Championship here,” said Schuller, a PGA Teaching Professional at Stonehenge Golf and Country Club in North Chesterfield, Virginia. “This routing of the golf course is quite a challenge. They have brought out the best of two courses. It’s a long walk, but it is in tremendous condition. The scoring ability was out there today. I felt I hit it better than I scored.”
5: SCHULLER MENTORS FELLOW COMPETITOR
PGA Professional Rick Schuller has given countless hours of golf instruction and encouragement to Brendan McGrath, the PGA Director of Instruction at Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston, Virginia. McGrath, 51, began playing golf at age 23. “I enjoy sharing knowledge. It’s a gift to be out here for us,” said Schuller, the 2009 PGA Professional Player of the Year. “This is my third straight time here and I’ve become more familiar with the guys. They are more than willing to share ideas. Jay Don Blake helped me with my wedge game last year, and he helped me again last night. Brendan is a great friend, and he literally couldn’t get it out of a bunker. But you could see his tenacity and athleticism. If I find somebody who has a thirst for it and they are respectful of that and want to learn, I’m happy to share. I have had many who have done the same for me.”
6: JUNIOR PGA CHAMPION REUNION
David Toms, the 2001 PGA Champion and Billy Mayfair, a five-time PGA Tour winner, are past Junior PGA Champions and now 50-year-olds making their respective debuts in the Championship. Mayfair, born 151 days ahead of Toms, won the 1982 Junior PGA Championship, while Toms captured the 1984 Junior PGA crown. Mayfair is the only player to defeat Tiger Woods in a PGA Tour playoff, coming at the 1998 Nissan Open.
7: KOHKI IDOKI WAS AN INSPIRATION
Takeshi Sakiyama is making his second appearance in the Championship. “I was stimulated by Kohki Idoki’s (2013 Senior PGA Championship victory). In the United States, driving distance and power golf is needed to be successful,” said Sakiyama. “But Kohki Idoki does not have the big power, but he is aggressive and has a good short game.”