HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — Jeff Sluman shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Senior Players Championship, the Champions Tour’s final major of the season.
Sluman, the winner last month at Pebble Beach, had seven birdies and a bogey on Westchester Country Club’s tree-lined West Course. Gary Hallberg and Peter Senior opened with 66s.
Jay Haas, the 2009 winner, and Corey Pavin and Michael Allen were two strokes back at 67, and Fred Couples, defending champion Mark O’Meara and Tommy Armour III had 68s.
Tom Watson struggled, shooting a 76.
Sluman had seven birdies in an 11-hole stretch from No. 4 to 14, including three in a row on Nos. 12-14. He bogeyed the par-3 16th, and then closed with two pars.
Sluman holed a 45-foot putt on the 12th, chipped in from 25 feet with a 9-iron on 13, then made a 3-footer on 14.
“I made one of those bombs,” Sluman said. “I was just trying to two-putt and it fell into the hole. I followed it up on 13 from 25 feet. Making a 45-footer and following it up with a 25-footer is not something I’m used to.”
Couples, playing in his first event since undergoing non-traditional back treatment six weeks ago in Germany, was 5 under through 11 holes, but dropped three strokes with bogeys on Nos. 12-14. He birdied No. 16 to get back to 3 under.
“If I hadn’t gone to Germany, I wouldn’t be playing right now,” Couples said. “I’d still be trying to see if it would thaw out and I don’t think it will. So that’s basically why I’m here after going there.”
Westchester Country Club was the site of a PGA Tour event from 1963-2007 and most players had fond memories of the course that has changed little since.
“Absolutely, you have a comfort zone,” Sluman said. “Anytime you have played at a place and I would guess I’ve probably played 80 rounds here and I should have a pretty good idea of what you need to do under all conditions.
“There’s nothing like the familiarity that we have on courses we’ve played many, many times,” Haas said. “I’ve had that on the PGA but out here the courses are usually different and I’ve only been out six or seven years and there’s just a tighter window that you have to learn the golf courses. So it’s nice to come back to a course that we have played before.”
O’Meara won last year at TPC Potomac in Maryland, beating Allen on the first hole of a playoff.