GREG NORMAN shot a 3-under 67 to be well in contention after the first round of a heat-affected 2012 Constellation Senior Players Championship in Pittsburgh.
Playing in his first Champions Tour major since 2009, Norman is just three strokes behind leader Brue Vaughan who is alone on 6-under.
The 57 year old Australian golfing icon opened his campaign on the Fox Chapel Golf Course with a bogey but struck straight back with a birdie on the par-five 2nd hole.
There were five more birdies from the Shark, offset by bogies on 8 and 16. Norman finished the day positively with a birdie on the par-five 18th.
Australia’s other entrant Peter Senior also had a good start to the tour’s third major of the year finishing tied for 14th on 1-under.
Senior shot five birdies but certainly wasn’t helped by a double bogey on the par-four 10th added to singles on 8 and 17. He too birdied the last.
Fifty five year old Vaughan, winner of the 2008 Senior British Open,
matched the lowest round of his career and tied the first-round record.
“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty good lately. The scores just haven’t been very good,” Vaughan said. “Today, it just kind of clicked.”
Fred Funk was in second, one stroke behind the leader while one further back Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Michael Allen and Joe Daley shared third on 4-under.
Norman broke up the all American party to be a stroke back tied for 7th along with Jim Thorpe and Bill Glasson.
Funk had four birdies and a bogey on the final six holes.
“I played pretty solid all day,” Funk said. “I had one little hiccup when I missed a little 2-footer on 16, but for the first time, you know how people always say, `You get it back,’ and you always believe you never will, but I made a 50- or 60-footer on the next hole, so I got it back. And then I made a nice putt on 18. It was really solid, and I’m really pleased with that.”
Defending champion Couples struggled with back problems during the heat of the first round but was confident he could continue.
“I feel lucky I got through this round with that score and then I have a lot of rest before tomorrow,” Couples said. “I’m really, really stiff though. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. I’m not getting too much sleep, so I’m just not feeling very well.”
Temperatures reached the mid-90s, and the heat is expected to remain throughout the weekend to the point that organisers reversed a policy and will permit spectators to bring bottled water onto the course.