BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- The largest galleries at Harbor Shores gravitated toward Thursday afternoon's marquee pairing in the opening round of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
On a Chamber of Commerce kind of day in southwest Michigan, Vijay Singh -- a two-time PGA Champion (1998, 2004) -- pegged it with Senior PGA Champions Colin Montgomerie (2014, 2015) and Rocco Mediate (2016).
Here's what we learned following this group of stars for their first nine holes.
No surprise here. Mediate has a sponsorship deal with Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. And, let me tell you, he's one hell of a company man.
Mediate grabbed his first cigar on the range an hour before the group's 1:30 p.m. tee time and it remained with him for his entire front nine.
Interesting thing about it though -- we never even saw Mediate light it up.
Here he was on the range:
And then on the tee:
Also, Rocco is a huge fan of skulls and crossbones. They're all over his bag, they're on his headcovers and, as you can see here, all over his driver:
And that's not enough. He also has them embroidered on his pants:
We noticed it before Singh teed off Thursday, but throughout the front nine, he seemed to be walking with a limp. Something just seemed off about his right foot or right leg.
Whenever he had a chance to walk on a cart path -- a hard, smooth surface -- instead of the grass, he did.
There was certainly discomfort, but it didn't seem to have an impact on Singh's game. He was comfortably outdriving his playing partners by 20-40 yards.
He had a couple of wonky shots on the front nine (more on that later), but there was never a shot that caused him to brace his right side or cringe in any pain. Nonetheless, something was bothering him.
And why wouldn't he be? Montgomerie won the first major of his career on this course in 2014. Something about it fits his eye.
Montgomerie had four birdies and two bogeys on the front side. His most impressive of the birdies actually came on No. 10, his opening hole.
The Scot didn't hit the greatest second shot to lay-up position, but threw a dart with his third to a difficult hole location and made the putt.
Beginning at the 14th hole, he rattled off three consecutive birdies.
Monty's lone top-10 finish in 10 starts on the PGA Tour Champions this season was runner-up in his first start, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
With his history at Harbor Shores, which includes a runner-up finish to Mediate in 2016 to go with that 2014 win, something tells us he'll be a factor this weekend.
See, professional golfers really are like you and me.
At the par-4 14th hole, Singh badly hooked his tee shot. So bad, in fact, that he elected to hit a provisional just in case the first shot was lost.
While Singh was walking off the tee, some volunteers got to work climbing down into the muck to try and locate the ball.
Within a minute or so, a volunteer shouted to Singh's caddie, "TaylorMade 19 with a red stripe?"
It was indeed Singh's ball.
He asked his caddie, "Danny, can I hit it?"
Danny said, "Yes, but you're going to want to see it."
Before Singh climbed down into the bushes and on the edge of a swampy area, he asked the spectators, "Are there any snakes in there?"
After a chuckle, the assured the three-time major champion there weren't.
So he climbed in and hit a spectacular punch-out back into the fairway. All things considered, it was a solid bogey.
The par-3 13th hole played 202 yards on Thursday. Nothing crazy for these guys.
But on the tee, Mediate severely misjudged something -- either the club, the wind direction, or both.
What happened next was a ball that flew the green, bounced hard off the top of a bunker and quickly scooted down one of the steepest hills at Harbor Shores before coming to rest at the base of a tree trunk.
When Mediate arrived at the ball, he assessed his options and realized there was no way to play the ball where it was. So, he took a penalty for an unplayable lie and dropped the ball within two club lengths of its original position.
From there, he couldn't see the flag, let alone the hole.
He hoisted the shot way up high, coming up just short of the green. Given all the factors from where he was: a sketchy lie and a blind shot to a severely undulating green that was running away from him, this shot was a 10-out-of-10 in difficulty and he scored about a 9 in execution with a double-bogey 5 on the scorecard, getting up and down after where he left it from the junk.
Far from a sensational score, but certainly a sensational shot.
Here's an idea of what Mediate was looking at:
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