Three birdies in the final four holes handed 2010 Champion Bernhard Langer a share of the lead midway through the first round at the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
Langer, who won this title at Carnoustie three years ago and came close again at Turnberry in 2012, signed for a two under par 68 on Thursday, a score matched in the morning session by South Africa’s David Frost, Australian Peter Senior and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.
One shot further back following a bright, breezy and testing opening morning in Southport were a group on one under par including 2010 US Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin and 2012 runner-up Gary Hallberg.
Two-time Major winner Langer was one over par for the day through 14, having looked rock solid in making 13 pars and just the one drop to that point, but the German put his foot down over the closing four holes to finish strong, birdieing the par five 15th and 17th before a wonderful approach to eight feet at the last set up a finish with a flourish.
“How I finished was very pleasing because 18 is not a simple hole,” said Langer, who eventually finished tied sixth last year after leading by one with 18 to play. “I wasn’t totally happy with my first seven or eight holes, because I had a number of chances to make birdies, and just didn't putt well.
“But it was very tight. I played very well off the tee and into the greens and gave myself opportunities, kept it out of these pot bunkers and out of the long grass. I had opportunities and finally the putter started working at the end.”
It was also a remarkable round and finish for Minoza.
Having opened with a bogey at the first and a triple bogey at the third, the seven-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour traversed the back nine in 31 blows, gaining shots at four of the last five holes to also finish two under for the day.
He said: “I stayed patient today which is important as I'm still learning how to play the links courses. You never know what the weather is going to do but I like it because you have to learn how to hit the ball low, how to hit a high ball, how to putt 50 yards off the green.”
Frost, meanwhile, hit a splendid second to three feet at the par five 17th to set up an eagle en route to his two under par total, while Senior could have led out right but for a bogey at the 18th after three wayward shots.
Colin Montgomerie, making his Senior Open debut this week playing alongside defending champion Fred Couples and 1998 Open Champion Mark O’Meara, started his campaign with five straight pars, while 2011 Senior Tour Number One Boonchu Ruangkit caught the leaders as the afternoon progressed thanks to back-to-back birdies before the turn.