Ernie Els waves to the gallery during the first round of the U.S. Senior Open golf championship at Omaha Country Club in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday, July 8, 2021. (Anna Reed/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

Canada’s Stephen Ames shoot 65 for share of 1st-round lead at US Senior Open

Canada’s Stephen Ames shoot 65 for share of 1st-round lead at US Senior Open

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Canada’s Stephen Ames and Billy Andrade shot 5-under 65s on Thursday to share the first-round lead in the U.S. Senior Open.

Ames, from Calgary, had seven birdies and two bogeys in the morning session. Andrade had five birdies and no bogeys on an Omaha Country Club course that dried out after the sun broke through and the wind came up in the afternoon.

Ames hit 11 of 13 fairways and 16 greens in regulation on the 6,891-yard course set in the rolling hills on the north side of the city. He birdied five of seven holes in the middle of the round before missing short birdie putts on Nos. 12 and 13.

Ames made a 15-footer for birdie on the par-4 No. 14 and hit a 6-iron to 4 inches on the downhill, 223-yard par-3 No. 15. But the 57-year-old naturalized Canadian citizen from Trinidad three-putted from 8 feet for bogey on the par-4 17th and came in at 32.

“I’m like, ’Whoa, could have been a lot lower on the back nine, which is unfortunate,” said Ames, whose highest finish in a senior major was a tie for third in the 2018 Senior British Open.

Ames got some local knowledge from his caddie, Troy Martin of Omaha. The two connected in April when Peter Jacobsen told Ames he was taking off the rest of the season and that his caddie, Martin, needed a job.

“I decided, OK, I’ll give him a trial run, and our trial run started off with a 10th in Birmingham and a second in Atlanta,” Ames said. “I’m like, ‘OK, what are you doing for the rest of the year?’ That’s how it ended up, and obviously we won in Des Moines, just up the road from here. It’s been a good year so far for me, for us.”

Wes Short Jr. shot 66. Alex Cejka, looking for his third victory in a senior major this year, and Robert Karlsson followed at 67.

Andrade, who started on the 10th hole, pulled into a tie with Ames with a birdie on the par-5 sixth. He got up-and-down from a greenside bunker to save par on the par-4 eighth. He just missed a 20-foot downhill birdie putt on the par-4 ninth.

Andrade’s best finish this season is a tie for fifth, and he has only one other top-10 in 22 events. Two weeks ago he had his worst tournament since 2014, finishing 18 over and tying for 63rd in the Senior Players Championship at Firestone. He’s winless since 2015.

Short has five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour Champions this year and is looking for his first win in a senior major. He was steady throughout his round, making four birdies and mostly avoiding the thick rough.

Jay Haas, at 67 the oldest player in the field, shot 69.

The field includes 16 players who won a total of 26 majors before joining the senior tour. Among those playing in the Senior Open for the first time are Mike Weir (70), Jim Furyk (72), Ernie Els (73), Rich Beem (73) and Jose Maria Olazabal (77).

Bernard Langer, who has won a record 11 senior majors, shot 71.

Steve Stricker, the 2019 champion, is not playing in Omaha. He’s on the regular PGA Tour this week at the John Deere Classic. There was no U.S. Senior Open last year because of the pandemic.

Kenny Perry, who won the Senior Open here in 2013, opened with a 71. The 60-year-old Perry, who also won the Senior Open in 2017, has only two top-10 finishes in 22 events this season.

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Eric Olson, The Associated Press

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