BEACHWOOD, Ohio (AP) — Orlando resident and avid Magic fan Scott Hoch put his day in NBA terms.
“After 16 (holes) I felt like the Magic did, and then after 18 I felt like the Cavaliers,” Hoch joked after following a great start with bogeys on the last two holes to drop into a tie with Tom Purtzer at 4-under 66 on Thursday after the opening round of the Senior PGA Championship.
Hoch said he was in “a good frame of mind” after watching his Magic beat the Cavaliers 107-106 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night. It must have carried over to the course at the first major of the year for the over-50 set.
“I just went out there and hit a lot of good shots through 16 holes. I was 6 under and could have been a few more,” Hoch said.
Their 66s matched the lowest competitive score at venerable Canterbury Golf Club, which joined Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., as the only course to host all five of the premier U.S. men’s championships played at rotating sites.
Purtzer started on the longer, harder back nine and turned in 2 under, his only bogey coming on the rolling 616-yard 16th. He had seven pars and two birdies on the front, totaling just 25 putts for the round while stringing together four one-putt greens during one stretch.
“A lot of times you’re better off having a 15-footer in the right spot than a 5- or 8-footer in the wrong spot,” he said.
Germany’s Bernhard Langer, a two-time winner this year and the Champions Tour’s top money-winner, had a 68 and was alone in third.
“I would like to think that I’m one of the players to beat,” Langer said. “I’ve had a pretty good season on the Champions Tour last year and I had a really good start this year again. So I would like to think of myself as being one of those guys that has a chance to win.”
Tom Kite, John Morse, Mark James, Joey Sindelar, Larry Mize, Dana Quigley and Fred Gibson were the only other players under par, each with a 69.
Only 10 players broke par and 12 others shot even-par 70 in warm and sunny weather with blustery wind at the 88-year-old layout in suburban Cleveland.
Hoch, who started with a pair of birdies, was three shots clear of the field at 6 under as he stepped to the tee on the 227-yard, par-3 17th. Bogey-free to that point, his wind-blown 3-iron ended up in the right front bunker and he failed to get up and down to a pin located on a back shelf. Then on the difficult, uphill par-4 18th, from a perfect lie he flew the green with his second shot but was able to save bogey with a two-putt from 50 feet.
“If you’re playing well and you guess right and hit enough good shots, you can do pretty good,” Hoch said. “But if you miss a shot or two, then you have to pay for it. That’s why it’s tough to shoot low.”
Hoch has followed 11 PGA Tour victories with three more on the Champions Tour. The 53-year-old has never won a major although he came within a missed 30-inch putt on the first playoff hole at the 1989 Masters of winning a green jacket. He ended up settling for second to Nick Faldo.
The 57-year-old Purtzer won five times on the regular tour and four more times on the Champions Tour. He also is chasing his first major title.
“I kind of felt like I was going to play good today,” Purtzer said. “I was hitting the ball good. I just needed to get the putter to work a little bit and I would be all right.”
A two-time Masters champion, Langer was content to rely on his arrow-straight drives to avoid the heavy rough bordering the narrow fairways on the tree-lined course. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation.
“I’ll take that most days, especially on a course like this where it’s not that easy to hit the fairways and the greens,” he said.
One of the early surprises of the day was 67-year-old Dave Stockton, who won the 1996 U.S. Senior Open at Canterbury, posting a 70. Among the others hitting that number were three-time U.S. Open winner Hale Irwin, 1988 PGA Championship winner Jeff Sluman and 2007 Senior PGA champion Denis Watson.
Jay Haas, winner at grueling Oak Hill a year ago with a score of 7-over 287, opened with a 71. Other notables included Tom Watson, John Cook and Fuzzy Zoeller at 72, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw and Nick Price at 73, and Champions Tour rookies Bob Tway (74) and Tom Lehman (75). Mark O’Meara, who defeated Cook in the 1979 U.S. Amateur at Canterbury, shot a 76.
Norman said he needed to clear his head.
“(The) only adjustment I need to make is to just wake up,” he said. “I didn’t hit the ball well, didn’t hit fairways, didn’t hit greens – other than that it was great.”
Zoeller was asked if he needed to make small adjustments.
“A couple small adjustments?” he repeated. “Yeah, I think a vodka tonic.”