Several rookies chasing Morgan at Turtle Bay

Several rookies chasing Morgan at Turtle Bay

Gil Morgan made eagles on 9 and 12.
Chris Condon/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

KAHUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Several rookies were in the hunt at the Turtle Bay Championship. At the top of the leaderboard, however, was a familiar face on the Champions Tour.

Gil Morgan had two eagles in a four-hole stretch on his way to a 7-under 65 and had the lead heading into Saturday’s second round.

He said the round was a bit surprising considering he didn’t practice much in the offseason. It showed last week when he had a bogey, double bogey and triple bogey in the final round of the MasterCard Championship.

There were no signs of rust Friday.

“My game’s been getting a little better every day,” he said. “Hopefully, my game will come around a little bit as I go forward. (But) I don’t know if I could improve on this round.”

The last time Morgan held the lead after the opening round was at the 2006 Senior PGA Championship, where he finished third.

Morris Hatalsky, who putted just 23 times, capped the round with consecutive birdies and was two strokes behind Morgan in the Champions Tour’s first full-field event of the year.

Four rookies were among the group at 68, including John Cook, seeking his second victory in his fourth start on the 50-and-over circuit. He was joined by fellow rookies Fulton Allem, Bernhard Langer and Phil Blackmar.

Despite Hale Irwin’s dominance here, Turtle Bay has also been welcoming to newcomers. Six players have won here in their debuts, including the last two winners.

Allem, who hasn’t won since taking the PGA Tour’s Colonial and World Series of Golf in 1993, was cruising to a bogey-free round until he attempted an aggressive second shot on 18 and failed to clear the lake on the right side.

“Eighteen was a stupid mistake. Everything else was pretty solid,” he said.

Tom Kite, who tied for second last year, Jim Thorpe and Donnie Hammond also were at 68.

The 61-year-old Morgan quickly moved up the leaderboard during the middle holes. Starting on No. 8, Morgan went birdie-eagle-par-birdie-eagle to reach 8 under.

“It was pretty fast and furious for a while,” he said.

Both eagles came on par 5s. He chipped in from 35 feet near the front of the green for the first eagle and sank a 35-foot putt on the other.

It was Morgan’s best run since he carded an eagle and double eagle in the first seven holes of the 2001 Instinet Classic.

Morgan got up and down to save par on No. 14. He looked at the leaderboard on 16th and noticed he had built a nice cushion and had thoughts of a possible third eagle.

“That wasn’t out the question to me at that point, but I never did get the ball close enough to the hole,” he said.

He lost a stroke when he was caught between clubs from 135 yards and three-putted the par-4 17th from 30 feet.

Morgan is coming off a 37th-place tie last week in the 41-player field at Hualalai. He was just a stroke out of last place and one of five players who failed to break par in the winners-only event.

Morgan, who won the 2007 Wal-Mart First Tee Open for his 25th Champions Tour victory, is making his fourth start at Turtle Bay, where he tied for 28th last year after closing with a 65.

Conditions at the oceanside Palmer Course were relatively calm Friday. Possible showers were expected for the weekend.

Defending champion Fred Funk, who ran away with a record 11-stroke victory a year ago, opened with a 70, five strokes off the pace.

The 51-year-old Funk is seeking a Hawaiian sweep with his two-stroke victory over Allen Doyle at Hualalai. The victory came after he opened the year by tying for 25th in the PGA Tour’s Mercedes-Benz Championship and tying for 10th in the Sony Open.

Funk, who had been dealing with a sinus infection, bogeyed No. 13, his first bogey in 67 holes at Turtle Bay.

Six-time Turtle Bay winner Hale Irwin opened with a 72, as did 2006 winner Loren Roberts.

Divots: Mark Weibe three-putted No. 9, which was his first three-putt of his Champions Tour career and snapped his streak of 296 holes without one. He didn’t take long to register his second one, three-putting again on No. 11. … With inclement weather expected Saturday, the players will go off both the 1st and 10th tees. … Playing on a sponsor’s exemption, David Ogrin made his Champions Tour debut and opened with a 71.

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