Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti and John Chillas of Scotland headed the European Seniors Tour challenge in the US Senior PGA Championship, the first Senior Major of the 2005 season.
The duo both opened with one under par 71s at the Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania to lie in a tie for 13th place, three shots behind the leader, Graham Marsh of Australia.
Chillas birdied three of the Laurel Valley’s four par fives, including the 515 yard 18th, to make amends for his two earlier bogeys, while Carbonetti – a winner of the Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic in March, also carded three birdies in his opening effort.
Leader Marsh, 61, returned to the putting style he used to win 56 tournaments worldwide to give him a one shot lead over Hale Irwin, RW Eaks, Dave Barr and Tom McKnight.
Marsh's theory? You're never too old to try something new -- or, in this case, the same putting style he used years ago while winning tournament after tournament in Europe, Japan, Australia and the US PGA Tour. He made the change after finishing 56th and 68th in his last two tournaments.
“This crazy game, you never know," Marsh said. "You just do the best you can and hope it stays with you. But sometimes when you make a change like that, it can hang around for a while."
Kind of like Irwin, who averages a victory every 5.6 appearances on the US Champions Tour. "In general, I'm delighted," said Irwin, who was level par through 14 holes before getting three birdies in his final four holes.
"The score indicates a much better round than what I played. I really didn't hit the ball that well. ... So I don't want to get terribly excited."
Neither did Curtis Strange - who finished amongst a group of players in a tie for sxith place on two under par 70 - even though he got off to his best start since moving onto the US Champions Tour earlier this year.
The former US Ryder Cup Captain birdied three of the first four holes, then dropped three shots on the back nine before flying the lake with his second shot on the par five 18th and holing a 15 foot eagle putt.
"The 18th makes up for a lot of mistakes when you make eagle," Strange said. "I'm smiling now, but I wasn't smiling 20 minutes ago."
After three days of persistent rain and chilly weather, temperatures warmed into the 70s for the first tournament at the 7,107-yard private course since the 2001 Pennsylvania Classic on the US PGA Tour. Cloudy skies and a threat of showers are forecast Friday -- nothing new for a tournament that's been rain-drenched the last four years.