SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Kirk Triplett birdied two of his last three holes for a 4-under 66 in strong gusts Friday to take a one-shot lead after one round of the Sanford International on the PGA Tour Champions.
Triplett, who won in March and leads the circuit with four runner-up finishes this year, was among only four players to have just one bogey on their cards.
Scoring at Minnehaha Country Club was so low last year that it was the third-easiest course on the PGA Tour Champions. That wasn’t the case on Friday in warm temperatures with gusts out of the south up to 30 mph.
The average score was just over 2 over (72.12). Except for the majors, only the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on the Big Island in Hawaii had a higher scoring average for the opening round. Only 12 players in the 78-man field broke par at Minnehaha.
“It’s windy, but if you played a practice round on Tuesday, it’s the exact same conditions we had on Tuesday except the course is a touch firmer,” Triplett said. “Some really hard holes, but some other holes are playing easier as well.”
Paul Broadhurst and Tom Gillis each shot 67, with Broadhurst holing out for eagle with a gap wedge on the par-5 fifth hole. Gillis posted his 14th consecutive round of par or better on the PGA Tour Champions as he seeks his first win on the 50-and-over tour. Gillis said he played conservatively because of the wind.
“I tried not to take any chances really. I just tried to drive it in the fairway,” he said. “It was just too tough to chase pins and try to get the exact numbers. Basically the yardage book, you could throw it out because it was feel, it was all feel. I think the last hole I had like 118 (yards) to the front, I was in the right rough and I just chipped a 7-iron. It went about 70 yards and rolled all the way to the back, to the hole. It was just that kind of day where you had to actually just use some creativity.”
Woody Austin was another shot behind. Among those at 69 was former British Open champion Darren Clarke, who got into the field when Olin Browne withdrew.
Scott McCarron, assured of keeping his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup, didn’t make a birdie until his 12th hole and wound up with a 70, tied with Jerry Kelly, who won last week at the Ally Challenge to close the gap in the Schwab Cup standings with two events left in the regular season.
Also at 70 was former PGA champion Jeff Sluman, who made his 1,000th career start in PGA Tour-sanctioned events — 300 on the PGA Tour Champions, and 700 on the PGA Tour.