PETER SENIOR shot an opening round 2-under 69 to be one shot off the lead after the first round of the 2013 Senior British Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
America’s Gene Sauers led the championship on 3-under with three others matching Senior, including 2010 champion Bernhard Langer, David Frost of South Africa and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.
In testing conditions on the Royal Birkdale course on the north west English coast only 10 players bettered par.
That figure also included Australia’s Peter Fowler who was on 1-under tied for sixth, while Steve Elkington was 2-over.
Senior temporarily took the outright lead after a birdie on the 17th but found the thick rough with his second shot on the last and closed with his second bogey of the round.
“I haven’t been play that well and it is nice to shoot a good score in a major championship. I putted really well today,” said a perhaps overly modest Senior, who at least made the cut at Muirfield last week.
Defending champion Fred Couples, meanwhile, struggled to a four over par 74 while Senior Open debutant Colin Montgomerie went two better to finish the day five shots off the lead.
Sauers, a three-time winner on the US PGA Tour, only returned to golf less than two years ago after suffering from a potentially fatal skin condition. Three years ago the American didn’t know whether he would ever pick up a golf club again, but has since made a creditable entry to the senior ranks.
“I’m very proud of that [first round effort],” said Sauers, who played in two Open Championships in his regular career, finishing tied 58th at Royal Troon in 1989. “I just made sure I hit a lot of solid shots. If you hit it really solid then the wind won’t really mess with it too much and so I’m pleased with the way I played.
“It’s a great place and a privilege and honour to be here. I’ve not played an awful lot of links golf but I like the different challenge; you don’t know which way the ball is going to bounce so you’re kind of hitting and hoping sometimes but I’m really enjoying it.”
Sauers was initially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2009 but it was the myriad medications he was prescribed that caused the dangerous Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, triggering his skin to start burning from inside-out.
“It’s a second chance,” he continued. “Both arms, both legs were burned up. After Duke University diagnosed me, I spent seven weeks in hospital, had seven lots of skin grafts and it was torture. I tell you, I don’t
want anybody to go through that. I’m blessed and I’m glad to be here.”