POTOMAC, Md. (AP) — Tom Kite shot a 3-under 67 in calmer morning conditions Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over fellow early starters Mark O’Meara, Michael Allen and Joe Ozaki in the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, the Champions Tour’s final major of the season.
After a bogey on No. 7, the 60-year-old Kite – winless since the 2008 Boeing Classic – birdied Nos. 9, 10, 14 and 17 at new-look TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
“On No. 9, I hit the first really good, quality shot I hit the whole day,” Kite said. “From that point on, I played a really solid back nine and that was pleasing.”
Allen, coming off a second-place finish last week in the PGA Tour’s Viking Classic, had five birdies and three bogeys, one on No. 14 that knocked him out of the lead.
“It was a day I felt like I played nicely at times, but a little sloppy as well,” Allen said. “As the week goes, I think I can do better than this.”
Russ Cochran, a two-time winner last month, was three strokes back at 70 along with Jeff Sluman, Eduardo Romero, Loren Roberts, Trevor Dodds and David Peoples.
Bernhard Langer, the British Senior Open and U.S. Senior Open winner in consecutive weeks this summer and the tour leader with five victories, shot a 71.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin opened with a 76, and Fred Couples shot a 78.
Kite rebounded after struggling in his pro-am round Wednesday.
“The guys that I played with are going to pick up the paper and go, ‘Unh-unh! There’s no way he shot that score,'” Kite said. “I was horrible in the pro-am.
“I was working on a couple of things on the round during the pro-am, and quite honestly I needed a really good session on the practice tee, which I had after the round.”
Only four of the 78 players broke par.
“I like hard golf courses and always have,” Kite said. “Most of the wins that I’ve had, with very few exceptions, have taken place on the harder courses – Pebble Beach, Butler National, Doral – really hard courses that I kind of strive on and really look forward to. And this golf course certainly fits in that category right now.”
Kite played alongside O’Meara.
“He’s just amazing,” O’Meara said. “He hits it good at 60. He still gets it out there and his short game was good today. He made some good saves. He’s a grinder. You can see why he’s a Hall of Famer.