Eduardo Romero’s affinity for The Senior Open Championship continued as the Argentine took a share of the lead with America’s Bruce Vaughan at Royal Troon after the pair left Greg Norman in their wake.
Romero, who has twice finished runner up in the Championship in 2004 and 2006 and who finished tied fourth last year, shot an opening round three under par 68, dropping just one shot on the sixth hole.
He joined Vaughan at the top of the leaderboard after the American shot eight birdies as well as a double and treble bogey in his incredible round.
Defending champion Tom Watson is just two strokes behind after a birdie on the 16th hole in a flawless round of 70 but pre-tournament favourite Norman could not carry his momentum from last week’s remarkable display at The Open Championship, finishing with a four over par75.
Romero came into the Championship in fine form having won the Dick’s Sporting Good Open in New York on the Champions Tour at the start of the month.
He produced a huge 205 yard nine iron tee shot on the 16h hole to set up his third birdie of the day and then declared it would be his week, following his previous near misses.
Romero said: “O'Meara is here, Langer is here, Woosnam is here, Greg Norman is here, and I think it's more difficult than last year and a couple years ago. But I'm in good form and I feel strong and I feel good and I feel happy. It's probably my week. I think it's my week.
“I love this tournament. You know, last year and the year before, I just missed by a couple of shots, and I love playing here. I've played for 30 years in Europe, and when I come here, it's like home. And especially this tournament, The Senior Open for me is a very special tournament. I will try my best to win this tournament, and I started very well today.”
Vaughan picked up shots on the second and fourth but fell back to level par with a double bogey seven on the fifth. He then moved to three under par with three birdies in five holes before losing the lead again with a triple bogey seven on the 12th ,before returning with birdies on the 13th, 16th and the last.
He said: “It was either feast or famine today. Outside of those two sevens, it was a good round. It’s just the first day though. We’ve got a few more days left.”
Vaughan hails from Kansas, the same State as Watson, and he admitted the three-time Senior Open champion was a hero back home.
Watson certainly played like he could create another piece of golfing history this weekend on the course where he won The Open Championship back in 1982.
The 58 year old said: “I didn't hit every fairway, but I hit every green today. How about that! I’ve never done that before. I hit 18 greens and I've putted for 18 birdies but I don't think I've ever hit 18 greens on the Tour ever in my life.”
Watson is two shots off the leaders alongside German Bernhard Langer on one under par, with fellow American’s Andy Bean, John Cook, Kirk Hanefield one shot off the pace on two under par, along with England’s Nick Job.
For Norman though the sedate sunshine on the Ayrshire coast might have been a world away from blustery Birkdale last week, but he appeared to suffer something of a hangover from his Open Championship fairytale.
The Australian, who rolled back the years to finish tied third behind Open Champion Padraig Harrington, looked understandably jaded from a dramatic past seven days as he opened with three bogeys in the first five holes and carded three more before steadying himself and picking up shots on the 13th and 18th holes. Scot Sandy Lye, playing in the same group as Norman and Watson, finished level with The Great White Shark after finishing with consecutive birdies for his four over par 75.
Meanwhile American Craig Stadler aced Royal Troon’s famous 123 yard Postage Stamp eighth hole and won 123 bottles of wine – one for each yard - from Hardys, the European Seniors Tour Official Wine Suppliers, after holing his pitching wedge tee shot in front of a packed gallery.
He said: “I just chipped a little pitching wedge and there she was. I was just hoping to stay out of the right bunker. It got a good first bounce and carried across the hill and hit the hole. It was nice to see it slow down. The wine is perfect as well. I’ll have a little Shiraz evening I think.”
A record opening day attendance of 8,760 spectators watched the first round of The Senior Open Championship presented by MasterCard. The figure was boosted by the strongest field in the Championship’s 22 year history, including Greg Norman, as well as glorious sunshine at Royal Troon Golf Club. It was up by 3,600 from 2007, when 5,160 people watched the first round at Muirfield.