WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Tommy Armour III has been known to come out of nowhere and light up a leaderboard.
After a terrible finish at the Senior PGA Championship, Armour bounced back with the best opening round in Principal Charity Classic history.
Armour matched the course record with an 8-under 63 to take a three-stroke lead Friday at the Glen Oaks Country Club.
Armour’s round was reminiscent of the 11-under 61 he shot in the final round of the ACE Group Classic in February. He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and went into the sand just once – saving for birdie, of course – while erasing the sting of last weekend’s final-round 78 at the Senior PGA.
“I played good from the first hole until the last hole,” Armour said.
Dan Forsman and Russ Cochran opened the Champions Tour event with 66s, and Bernhard Langer and Nick Price topped a group at 67. Forsman, seeking his second win in three starts, got as far as 7 under before a double bogey on No. 18.
Fred Couples, making his first appearance in Iowa since missing the cut at the PGA Tour’s Quad Cities Open in 1981, opened with a 70.
Armour has finished second twice in his rookie season on the senior circuit; at the ACE Group Classic and in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic last month. But he has also been inconsistent at times, with three finishes out of the top 10.
Not on Friday, though. Armour shot a 31 on the front nine and finished with by far his best opening round of the year. It also gives him the largest lead heading into the second round at Glen Oaks – a course Armour played for the first time Friday.
“It’s preparation. I prepare to play good,” Armour said.
Forsman kicked off his back nine with a flourish, hitting a 7-iron from 149 yards out for an eagle on the par-4 10th hole. Forsman then birdied three of the next four holes to move to 7 under, but he put his tee shot on No. 18 in a bunker and three-putted en route to a double bogey.
Cochran, who entered play 21st on the senior circuit money list, birdied No. 18 to move into a tie for second with Forsman.
Langer had his own adventure on the 18th hole, but his worked out beautifully in the end.
Langer hit a 60-yard sand wedge over the hole, but it spun back, smacked Mike Reid’s ball and dropped in the cup for birdie that put him four shots off the lead.
“Caught it with the right angle and the right spin. I should have become a billiards player,” Langer said.
Langer and Price, who both entered play among the top four on the money list with Couples, are in strong shape to make a run at Armour on Saturday.
Couples, a crowd favorite and the current Champion Tour money leader, rallied from a sluggish start with birdies on the back nine.
“I got off to a slow start, but it wasn’t horrible. I just didn’t do anything,” Couples said.
The course was a bit soggy when the first players teed off in the morning. Roughly three-tenths of an inch of rain fell overnight, adding to what had been a relatively wet week at Glen Oaks.
Though the sun helped dry out the course while leaving greens soft, the moisture kept the players from getting much run on the fairways and made for some murky lies.
Heavy rain is forecast Friday night, though, which could delay second-round play.
Defending champion Mark McNulty, who survived a three-man playoff by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole, is skipping the tournament after having knee surgery last month.