CONCORD, Mass. (AP) — Tom Kite matched the course record with a 9-under 63 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the Bank of America Championship.
Kite birdied the first three holes at Nashawtuc Country Club and played the front nine in 6-under 30 in the Champions Tour event. Two strokes ahead of Mark McNulty and David Eger, Kite matched Allen Doyle’s tournament record set in 2003.
“It’s nice to have something to get excited about,” said Kite, winless since 2006.
This year, the 57-year-old Kite has one second-place finish, but hasn’t placed in the top 10 since mid-February.
“I’ve had some good moments, but it’s been a little bit of a struggle,” said Kite, whose previous best score this year was 65. “I’ve putted beautifully, but I haven’t struck the ball well. I’ve been working on it, making some swing adjustments.”
Kite hit and putted well Friday with birdie putts of 4, 18 and 18 feet to open his round. Then he made a 30-footer for a birdie on the sixth hole.
His back-nine highlights included a chip-in from the left rough for birdie on the par-4 16th. Kite hit what he thought was a nice drive on the par-5 18th, but his ball landed about a foot into the high rough and he had to lay up. He still had a chance for a birdie – and a tournament record – but missed a 15-footer.
In the last 26 years, eight first-round leaders have gone on to win the event. Bob Gilder was the last in 2002.
Kite, McNulty and defending champion Jay Haas played in the same threesome and had a cumulative score of 20 under. Haas, seeking his third straight Champions Tour victory, made the group’s only bogey, on the par-4 12th en route to a 68.
McNulty, the winner in 2005, got his round going with a 40-foot putt for birdie on the par-5 fifth hole.
“There were a lot of birdies out there,” he said. “When everyone plays well, you feed off one another.”
John Morse was four shots off the lead, and Jeff Sluman, Loren Roberts, Hale Irwin were in a large group with Haas at 4 under.
Irwin won at Nashawtuc in 1997 and 1998 and has won more money at this event than any other competitor. He played Friday with Scott Simpson and Curtis Strange, a group of three former U.S. Open winners.
Kite’s best finish at the Bank of America Championship is a tie for second in 2004. He finished third during a memorable 2001 tournament when his tee shot on the par-3 17th struck and killed a bird.
Kite went to that hole one shot behind eventual winner Larry Nelson. Kite’s 7-iron tee shot hit a purple martin while it was flying. Both the bird and Kite’s ball landed in a pond. Kite went on to a double bogey.