I hit my first ball down the fairway, and thought, You know what? This is going to be a great day, said Eaks, three strokes ahead of second-place Tom Jenkins. Everything I did seemed to turn out good.
Not quite everything. After making nine birdies and an eagle to reach 11 under after 15 holes, the 56-year-old Eaks had good birdie chances on the final two holes, but missed a 5-foot putt on No. 16, a 13-footer on 17 and a 10-footer on 18.
The 61 ' the best score this year on Champions Tour ' left him a stroke short of tying the record on the 50-and-over circuit.
I really didnt start thinking about (the record) until I hit my birdie putt on 15, said Eaks, who also missed a 3 1/2 -foot birdie putt on No. 11. Thats when I knew I had a chance. I have no complaints about this day at all.
Ill think about all the positive stuff from today, but I know that theres no way Ill go out and do the same thing tomorrow.
Taking advantage of rain-softened greens on the Robert Trent Jones-designed Rock Barn Golf and Spa course, Eaks was 7 under on the front nine, with five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole.
Eaks got to 11 under with birdies on four of the first five holes on the back nine, including three in row on Nos. 13-15.
Last year, Eaks held off Jay Haas and Rod Spittle by two strokes. Eaks won the 3M Championship this year for his third career Champions Tour title.
Jenkins, a seven-time winner on the Champions Tour whose last win came in the 2006 SAS Championship in Cary, N.C., had a bogey-free 64.
I wasnt paying much attention to (Eaks), but I knew he had a good round going, Jenkins said. I didnt know what was going to happen but I started hitting some really good drives on the practice tee. I felt a good round coming.
Fred Funk opened with a 65, and Senior British Open winner Bruce Vaughan, Tom Purtzer, Tom Kite, Dan Forsman and Tom McKnight shot 66s.
Haas, the 2005 winner, had a 68. Jeff Sluman, coming off a victory Aug. 31 in the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, opened with a 72.