Purtzer Leads on Windy California Day


Tom Purtzer, a Senior Tour rookie, posted a 2-under 70 on Friday to lead the SBC Senior Classic as conditions were extremely difficult in the first round. Gil Morgan is in second at 1-under-par as they were the only two players to break par at Valencia Country Club on Friday.
Winds were gusting in the first round and greens were difficult to putt on. Some players putted off greens as the slopes on the small grass were nearly impossible to contend with at times.
'It was an awkward day and it was hard to figure out where the wind was,' said Purtzer, who turned 50 in December. 'The hard thing about this course is the greens. The mounds make you second guess yourself on putts and that makes the course very difficult.'
The first round was one of the most difficult in recent memory. The 1998 U.S. Senior Open at Riviera saw only Raymond Floyd break par on the first day and at last year's Open, Bruce Fleisher was the only player under par after the opening round.
Neither of those courses were par-72s like Valencia Country Club. Riviera plays to a par of 71, while Salem Country Club in Massachusetts is a par-70 layout.
Purtzer broke into red figures early at the fourth when he ran home a 10-foot birdie putt. That was quickly negated two holes later when he drove into the trees and missed a three-foot par save at five.
It was around the turn that Purtzer claimed the lead. He chipped to three feet at the par-5 ninth to set up birdie and he made it two in a row at 10 after he played a magnificent 3-iron to five feet.
That would be enough to preserve the lead, but Purtzer had his testy moments coming into the clubhouse. He drained an eight-foot par save at the 12th and holed a four-footer for par at 14. Purtzer had a chance to increase his lead at the closing hole, but missed an eight-foot birdie try and settled for his 70.
'There were some exciting shots out there,' Purtzer said. 'It made you look silly at times. It was quite a test.'
This is Purtzer's fourth start on the elder circuit and he has enjoyed some success. He tied for seventh in his first event, the Royal Caribbean Classic, and has finished outside the top-10 in his last two.
'After four tournaments, I'm really amazed at how good these guys play,' said Purtzer, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. 'It's interesting and fun.'
Morgan was 1-over par with two holes to play but rebounded at 17. He knocked an 8-iron to seven feet to set up birdie and reach level-par but he became the second player to get under par at the last hole.
He missed the putting surface short with his second shot at the par-5 18th but chipped his third to eight feet. Morgan converted that birdie try to round out his 71.
'The greens were as quick and treacherous as we've played this year,' said Morgan. 'You had to really concentrate and stay focused. All in all, it was very difficult.'
Tom Watson, Gary McCord, Howard Twitty and Walter Hall share third at even-par 72.
Fleisher and Larry Nelson headline a group of seven golfers who are three down
Defending champion Jim Colbert opened with a 5-over 77.
Wayne Levi, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour and former Ryder Cupper, debuted on the Senior Tour on Friday and it might have been a premiere he wanted to miss. He shot a 7-over 79 and is tied for 68th.
Full-field scores from the SBC Senior Classic