Defending champion David Toms and U.S. Senior Open rookie Steve Stricker led the scoring assault on the opening day of the U.S. Senior Open, firing matching rounds of 62, eight under par, to equal the lowest 18-hole score in the tournament’s history.
Toms was firing on all cylinders on day one as he bids to become the first player since compatriot Allen Doyle to win back-to-back U.S. Senior Open titles, carding a record ten birdies in his opening round including four consecutive birdies in his closing four holes.
The 52-year-old, who won the 2001 US PGA Championship, became the first defending champion to hold or share the 18-hole lead.
‘It's a great round in a major championship, so I've got to take confidence away from that,’’ he said. ‘’I haven't been able to make putts consecutively during a round very often this year, and to do that, it gives me some confidence with the putter.
‘’You don't expect those things, but just a little shot of confidence always helps. That's what I'm going to take out of this round and go into the rest of the week and do the best I can.’’
With the 6,891-yard layout at Warren Golf Course playing exceptionally receptive after an overnight storm, the course transformed into an target zone for the world’s best senior players and Stricker quickly took advantage, registering seven birdies and an eagle to match the score Toms posted earlier in the day.
Stricker, who came into his first U.S. Senior Open following a playoff loss last week in the American Family Insurance Championship on the US PGA Tour Champions, had a 15-foot putt on the 18th green to become the first person in history to shoot a 61 in a regular or senior major championship but saw his birdie chance slip agonisingly past.
‘’I was excited to be out there, and I saw some good scores early, and that motivated me to keep aggressive, really, because I didn't want to get too far behind, and was able to put up a good number, as well,’’ Stricker said.
The pair are two strokes clear of Americans Kirk Triplett and Jerry Kelly, with Staysure Tour member and three-time Major Champion Vijay Singh one shot further back after an opening round of 65, five under par.
Miguel Angel Jiménez, who finished one stroke behind David Toms at the 2018 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor, looks set to challenge again after firing an opening round of 66, the same score as recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee and fellow Staysure Tour member Retief Goosen.
Bernhard Langer made a strong start to his title challenge as the 61-year-old bids to become the oldest winner in U.S. Senior Open history. The ten-time Senior Major Champion opened with a 66 to sit four shots behind the leaders after day one.