WALTON ON THE HILL, England – Mark Calcavecchia defied the afternoon rain to shoot a bogey-free 68 and take a three-way share of the first-round lead at the Senior British Open on Thursday.
Bidding to become the fourth player to win both the British Open and the senior version, the 51-year-old American had two birdies on either side of the turn before parring the final five holes.
Calcavecchia, winner of the British Open at Troon in 1989, was joined on 4 under by Ireland’s Mark McNultyand Australia’s Mike Harwood, who earlier benefited from still and dry conditions on the parkland course at Walton Heath that hosted the 1981 Ryder Cup.
“The weather moved in when we were on No. 11 – it wasn’t horrible but it made it tougher for sure,” said Calcavecchia, one of three players not to drop a shot in their first rounds. “Not making any bogeys was nice, so it was a good score, a good start.”
South Africa’s David Frost and Scotland’s Albert MacKenzie were a shot behind, with defending champion Bernhard Langer of Germany one of seven players who shot 70. Americans Bob Tway, Mike Goodes and Lee Rinker were among those tied with Langer.
Tom Lehman and Mark O’Meara finished with 71s and Corey Pavin was another stroke back.
Three-time winner and eight-time major champion Tom Watson shot a 75, which included a double bogey at No. 8 after finding the middle of the fairway off the tee.
“I wasted a lot of strokes on the greens today. I made two putts, that’s about it,” Watson said.
After Gary Player and Bob Charles, Watson is the other player to have done the British Open double.
“It’s a bit early to talk about that,” Calcavecchia said. “We’ll give it all we got and see where we’re standing on Sunday coming down the stretch. Hopefully I’m there with a chance.”
Calcavecchia faded after a solid start at last week’s British Open at Sandwich – shooting a 79 after an opening-day 69 to miss the cut. He spent his days off in Paris and sightseeing in London, taking in Wimbledon.
Appearing fresh, he birdied the par-5 No. 2 and picked up three more shots in six holes around the turn.
“I will do better here than I did on Friday last week,” he said. “Especially hitting irons into the green, this is a lot more like what we are used to playing in the States.”
Langer was 4 under after seven holes but acknowledged the “wheels fell off” when he bogeyed three out of four holes at the start of the back nine.
“I never made any putts from distance … and I’m still battling with my swing, not totally trusting everything yet,” said Langer, who is on the comeback trail after four months out following thumb surgery.