Tom Purtzer is alone in second place after a 6-under-par 65. Loren Roberts, who made his Champions Tour debut last week at the Senior British Open, carded a 5-under-par 67 and has third, one shot better than 2001 U.S. Senior Open champion Bruce Fleisher.
'I knew yesterday I was playing very, very well, and it was just a matter of keeping it going,' said Norman, a two-time British Open winner. 'Not that I felt I putted poorly, I just felt like I didn't have the right speed of the greens. That was probably the only downfall or the weakest part of the game today. All in all I felt extremely comfortable.'
'I played a pretty solid round of golf,' said Watson. 'I made a pretty solid run on the back nine and a 68 is a good start in this Senior Open.'
All of these top players will be looking up at last year's leading money winner.
Stadler, the 1982 Masters champion, wasted little time in breaking into red figures. He started on the back nine Thursday at NCR and two-putted the par-5 10th green for a birdie. He made it two in a row with a 20-footer at No. 11, then the eight-time winner on the Champions Tour parred his next three holes.
At the difficult, par-3 15th, Stadler hit a 3-iron to 5 feet and converted the birdie try. Things briefly fell apart for Stadler at the par-4 18th when his 5-iron approach landed 40 feet right. He three-putted for a bogey to make the turn at 2-under-par 33.
Stadler holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the first after his drive landed in the rough. He two-putted for regular pars at two, three and four, but the 52-year-old caught fire late in his round.
At the par-5 fifth, Stadler reached the green in two and landed 25 feet from the hole. He missed that, but once again knocked a 3-wood to 25 feet with his second at the par-5 sixth. Stadler made that eagle try to reach 6 under par.
Stadler found the fairway with a driver at seven then hit a soft 8-iron to 6 feet. He drained that birdie putt, but never gave himself a good look at birdie the rest of the way. Stadler parred out for the first-round lead.
'I just put it in the fairway all day and hit some good iron shots, but the greens are so soft as you see, you just fire at the hole and it stays right there,' said Stadler, who is winless thus far in 2005. 'It's a playable golf course and obviously very scorable this afternoon.'
Stadler finished alone in fourth place at last week's Senior British Open, but the former Masters winner does not necessarily believe that this round has much to do with last week.
'I'm not a believer or disbeliever in momentum. I think it's just kind of a fact when you play well you tend to feed off that at times,' said Stadler. 'Carry-over from last week - with the positive attitude and the confidence, probably, with the golf game, I don't think so at all. It's completely different golf last week.'
Purtzer also began on the back nine and was 3 under through two holes with an eagle at 10 and a birdie at 11. He traded a birdie and a bogey the rest of the way on his first nine, but reached 5 under par thanks to a 4-foot birdie putt at one and a 12-footer at No. 2.
Things got a little hairy for Purtzer from there. He drove against a tree at the third, but hit his approach over the green. Purtzer chipped to 2 feet and he made the unlikely par save.
At the fourth, Purtzer drove into a bunker, then sailed 40 yards over the green with his second. He pitched his third from deep rough, 10 feet past the hole and once again saved an unbelievable par.
'You figure out how far you want to hit it and then make a swing and hopefully it comes off as you envision it, as you want it to,' said Purtzer, referring to his pitch at four. 'Not too many times do they come off like you want in that long of grass.'
He ran home a 12-foot eagle putt at No. 6, but pulled his drive at the seventh en route to a bogey.
'I really didn't know what to expect, and when you get off to a start like that, it kind of helps get your momentum, get some positive thoughts flowing,' said Purtzer, a two-time winner on the Champions Tour. 'So that definitely helped.'
Raymond Floyd, who won the 1969 PGA Championship at NCR, shot a 2-under-par 69 and headlines a group tied for 10th place. Jay Sigel, Rodger Davis and Morris Hatalsky are some of the players tied five shots behind Stadler.
Defending champion Peter Jacobsen was 2 under par with three holes to play, but tallied a bogey and a double bogey. He shot a 1-over-par 72 and is part of a group tied for 44th.