Hoch shares early lead at Senior PGA Championship


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Champions TourBEACHWOOD, Ohio – Scott Hoch bogeyed the final two holes for a 4-under 66 and share of the first-round lead with Tom Purtzer on Thursday in the 70th Senior PGA Championship, the first major of the year for the over-50 set.
Their 66s matched the lowest competitive score at venerable Canterbury Golf Club, which joined Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., as the only course to host all five of the premier U.S. men’s championships played at rotating sites.
Germany’s Bernhard Langer, a two-time winner this year and the Champions Tour’s top money-winner, had a 68 and was alone in third. Tom Kite, John Morse, Mark James, Joey Sindelar, Larry Mize, Dana Quigley and Fred Gibson were the only other players under par, each with a 69.
Only 10 players broke par and 12 others shot even-par 70 in warm and sunny weather with blustery wind at the 88-year-old layout in suburban Cleveland.
One of the early surprises of the day was 67-year-old Dave Stockton, who won the 1996 U.S. Senior Open at Canterbury, posting a 70. Among the others hitting that number were three-time U.S. Open winner Hale Irwin, 1988 PGA Championship winner Jeff Sluman and 2007 Senior PGA champion Denis Watson.
Hoch, who started with a pair of birdies, was three shots clear of the field at 6 under as he stepped to the tee on the 227-yard, par-3 17th. Bogey-free to that point, his wind-blown 3-iron ended up in the right front bunker and he failed to get up and down to a pin located on a back shelf. Then on the difficult, uphill par-4 18th, from a perfect lie he flew the green with his second shot but was able to save bogey with a two-putt from 50 feet.
Hoch has followed 11 PGA Tour victories with three more on the Champions Tour. The 53-year-old has never won a major although he came within a missed 30-inch putt on the first playoff hole at the 1989 Masters of winning a green jacket. He ended up settling for second to Nick Faldo.
Purtzer started on the longer, harder back nine and turned in 2 under, his only bogey coming on the rolling 616-yard 16th. He had seven pars and two birdies on the front, totaling just 25 putts for the round while stringing together four one-putt greens during one stretch.
The 57-year-old Purtzer won five times on the regular tour and four more times on the Champions Tour. He also is chasing his first major title.
A two-time Masters champion, Langer was content to rely on his arrow-straight drives to avoid the heavy rough bordering the narrow fairways on the tree-lined course. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation.
Jay Haas, winner at grueling Oak Hill a year ago with a score of 7-over 287, opened with a 71. Other notables included Tom Watson, John Cook and Fuzzy Zoeller at 72, Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw and Nick Price at 73, and Champions Tour rookies Bob Tway (74) and Tom Lehman (75). Mark O’Meara, who defeated Cook in the 1979 U.S. Amateur at Canterbury, shot a 76.
Canterbury has also hosted the U.S. Open in 1940 (won by Lawson Little) and 1946 (Lloyd Mangrum), the PGA Championship in 1973 (Jack Nicklaus) and the U.S. Amateur in 1964 (William Campbell) in addition to the Senior PGA, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur championships.
The 156-player field includes eight members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and 23 players who have won a total of 41 major championships, beginning in 1963 with Bob Charles’ win in the British Open and ending with O’Meara’s titles at the 1998 Masters and British Open.
The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after 36 holes.
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