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Big Three Back in the Spotlight

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The Big Three are back, if but for a day.
 
Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who combined for 151-career PGA Tour titles, once again took center stage in the Senior PGA Tour's second major of the season, the Senior PGA Championship.
 
Palmer, 71, shot his age. Nicklaus, 61, matched his best round of the year, a 4-under-par 68. And Player, 65, did his part by shooting a 2-under 70.
 
On the brink of the spotlight was Jim Thorpe, the first-round leader. Thorpe posted six birdies to just one bogey for a 5-under-par 67.
 
Thorpe leads Nicklaus, Bob Gilder and Larry Nelson by one shot at the Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
 
Nicklaus round came one day after he was quoted in newspapers as saying he was seriously considering retiring if he couldnt compete anymore.
 
Well, compete he did on Thursday. Nicklaus, who won this event in 1991, birdied his first two holes en route to a five-birdie, one-bogey 68.
 
Nicklaus credited his improvement to the late Ben Hogan. Nicklaus has been having problems with his takeaway since hip surgery two and a half years ago. Last week, he decided to move his right foot back a little ' something Hogan did ' on both full swings and while putting.
 
I dont think its too early to get excited about it, Nicklaus said. I dont know whether it means anything except that Im not nine shots out of the lead, which is my usual place.
 
Nicklaus hasnt won on the Senior circuit since the 1996 Tradition. He finished runner-up to Lee Trevino the last time a major was contested on this course, the 1990 U.S. Senior Open.
 
Palmers drought has been a bit more extensive, dating back to 1988. However, this isnt the first time this year The King has shown his brilliance. He also shot 71 in the fourth round of the PGA Tours Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in February.
 
It was fun to do what I did today, said Palmer. But there must be something wrong with me. I dont think of shooting 71 as a big deal. Hell, I should have shot 68 or 67.
 
Three-time champion Hale Irwin is two shots off the lead after an opening 69. Irwin won this tournament three consecutive years beginning in 1996 at the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
 
This is the first time the event has been held outside the state of Florida since 1938.
 
Defending champion Doug Tewell is three back following a 2-under-par 70; a hole-out eagle from 167 yards on the par-4 14th highlighted his round.
 
Full-field scores from the Senior PGA Championship

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