Tewell began his day with successive birdies over his first two holes, before making the turn in 4-under 32. A final birdie ensued at the par-5 12th. He then parred his final six holes to take a one-shot lead over Tom Wargo and Mike McCullough, who has won twice this season.
The package is coming together, said Tewell, who has been working with teaching professional Jim Flick. I feel confident again. I felt comfortable all day, and thats what its all about.
An early candidate for 2001 Rookie of the Year, Bob Gilder opened in 4-under-par 68 to tie Jim Holtgrieve and Terry Dill for fourth place. Gilder won the Verizon Classic in February.
Tewell won three times a year ago, including the PGA Seniors Championship. Wargo also took home the same major title in 1993.
Defending champion Tom Kite shot an even-par round of 72. Hale Irwin, who has won every Senior major except The Tradition, was two shots lower on Thursday. His 2-under 70 has him four shots off the lead.
Four-time Tradition winner Jack Nicklaus posted a 1-over-par 73.
Full-field scores from The Tradition