Round 1 Notebook: Senior British Open

July 25, 2013
Phil Stambaugh, Champions Tour staff

Gene Sauers (34-33--67/-3)

Making his first career appearance in the Senior Open Championship after having played twice in the Open Championship during his PGA TOUR career. Sauers was T52 at Royal Troon in 1989 and was T88 at St. Andrews in 1995.

Is making his 12th appearance on the 2013 Champions Tour and, along with Mike Goodes, lost in a three-way playoff to Esteban Toledo at the Insperity Championship in May. Also teamed with Kenny Perry to finish T2 at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in his hometown of Savannah in late April.

Best performance in the previous four majors on the Champions Tour this year was a T15 at the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek.

His 67 today was his best first-round score this year in a stroke-play event. Previous-best was 2-under 69 on Thursday at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.

This marks the first time Sauers has ever been a leader/co-leader after the first round on the Champions Tour. The last time he led after play on Thursday on the PGA TOUR was at the 1997 LaCantera Texas Open. He shared the first-round lead at the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive and ended up T2, his best career performance in a major.

Won three times on the PGA TOUR with his last title coming at the 2002 Air Canada Championship. Also won on the Tour in 1998 at the South Carolina Classic.

First-Round Statistics at the Senior Open Championship

Gene Sauers’ 3-under-par score is the highest to par to lead at Senior Open Championship since 2008 at Royal Troon when Eduardo Romero and eventual-champion Bruce Vaughan shared the lead with 3-under 68s.

Last year at the Senior Open Championship at Turnberry, Bernhard Langer led after play on Thursday with a 6-under 64.

First-round leaders have won five of the first 13 stroke-play events on the Champions Tour this year. Since the Senior Open Championship became an official event in 2003, here are the first-round leaders/co-leaders to go on and win (4): Tom Watson (2003), Loren Roberts (2006), Bruce Vaughan (2008), Bernhard Langer (2010).

Frankie Minoza of the Phillipines, a winner of seven events on the Japan Tour and one title on the Asian Tour, had the up and down round of the day. Minoza’s bogey 5 at No. 1 and triple-bogey 7 at No. 3 left him 4-over after the first three holes. However, the Japan Senior Tour stalwart rallied after that, making seven birdies, including four in his last five holes to shoot 2-under-par 69. Before today, Minoza last played in the Senior Open Championship in 2010, missing the cut at Carnoustie.

John Cook’s double-bogey 6 on the 18th hole spoiled what could have been the low round of the day and instead left him at 1-under 69 in his first-ever appearance at Royal Birkdale. In five previous appearances in the Senior Open Championship, Cook has finished T11 or better four times, including a playoff loss to Bruce Vaughan in 2008 at Royal Troon. Cook has also finished second in the 2012 Senior PGA Championship and lost in playoffs at both the 2011 Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS and 2009 Regions Tradition. He also managed a third-place effort at the 2010 U.S. Senior Open.

Duffy Waldorf, the only player to post top-10 finishes in each of the Champions Tour’s first four majors of the 2013 season, struggled in his opening round at Royal Birkdale today with a 6-over 76 and is T95 after the first round of the Senior Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Waldorf was T6 at the Senior PGA Championship, T5 at the Regions Tradition, T2 at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship and T9 at the U.S. Senior Open Championship two weeks ago in Omaha, Nebraska.

Defending champion Fred Couples carded a 4-over 74 today/T59. Last year, Couples posted a 2-over 72 in Round 1 and was T66. Here’s how the other six former Senior Open Championship winners in this year’s field fared on Thursday: Bernhard Langer/2010 (-2), Russ Cochran/2011 (+1), Bruce Vaughan/2008 (+3), Tom Watson/2003, 2005, 2007 (+3), Christy O’Connor, Jr./1999, 2000/+5, Noboru Sugai/2002 (+13).

World Golf Hall of Fame member Colin Montgomerie, a winner of 31 events on the European Tour, made his first appearance in Europe as a senior and shot 2-over 72 in Round 1 of the Senior Open Championship.

Only 10 players broke par-70 in the opening round at Royal Birkdale and the field scoring average for the 144 players was 74.453 (+4.462). There were 32 scores in the 60s in Round 1 at Turnberry last year and the stroke average for the field on the par-70 Ailsa course was 72.048 (+2.048). Overall in Round 1 at Turnberry, there were four eagles and 373 birdies made. Today at Royal Birkdale, six total eagles were made as well as 271 birdies.

The par-4 6th hole played as the most difficult in Round 1 (4.660), yielding just four birdies (Dick Mast, David Frost, Corey Pavin, Mark Brooks). The par-5 17th hole played as the easiest (4.793), giving up three eagles (Greg Turner, Jeff Sluman, David Frost) and 46 birdies.

Bob Gilder is competing in his 63rd consecutive major championship on the Champions Tour, an all-time record streak. Gilder has played in every major championship since joining the Champions Tour in 2001and his best finish in the previous 62 senior majors was a solo third at the Senior PGA Championship in 2001 and a T3 in the Regions Tradition in 2002. Gilder’s best career performance in a Senior Open Championship was T16 in 2005 and 2011. Gilder struggled with 7-over 77 today.

Here’s how the five Champions Tour players that made the cut in the 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale fared in Round 1 today – David Frost (-2), Rocco Mediate (even), Tom Lehman (+2), Bart Bryant (+2) and Colin Montgomerie (+2).

Paul Wesselingh of Liverpool, currently the leading player on the 2013 European Tour Order of Merit, is among a group of 12 players at level par after the first round. Wesselingh won both the ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship and Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open earlier this year.

Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy retired after seven holes with a nagging shoulder injury. Darcy was 5-over at the time of the withdrawal.

Australia’s Gordon Manson withdrew before the start of his round due to personal reasons and was replaced in the field by Glenn Ralph.

Tom Kite and Gene Sauers led the field in Greens In Regulation, each hitting 16 (89%) today…Paul Way and Mark Wiebe needed only 22 putts today (1.22)…Jeff Hart and Mike Goodes each hit 12 of 14 fairways (86%)…Amateur Jim Volpenhein had the day’s longest measured drive of 305.5 yards at the par-5 15th hole.

A championship record 9,325 spectators turned out for Round 1 of the Senior Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.