ST. LOUIS — Jay Haas is familiar with Bellerive Country Club — and it showed in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship.
Haas, who grew up in nearby Belleville, Ill., and Duffy Waldorf shared the lead Thursday, shooting 5-under 66 in breezy, cool conditions.
The 59-year-old Haas, the winner of the major championship in 2006 and 2008, had a bogey-free round. The 50-year-old Waldorf had six birdies and one bogey.
“I didn’t expect it going out,” Haas said about shooting a low round. “I wasn’t very sharp today, but managed to … my misses were in the correct spots and I took advantage of a few good iron shots and just kind of kept it between the ditches, I guess you would say. But I’m very, very pleased.”
Haas has 16 Champions Tour victories after winning nine times on the PGA Tour.
Waldorf is winless in 11 career starts on the 50-and-over tour after winning four times on the PGA Tour.
“Tee to green, it was a very good day,” Waldorf said. “All in all, I hit the ball really well. I really liked my iron play. I had quite a few birdie putts. I didn’t make them all so I feel like I still had some more out there.”
Sonny Skinner, the PGA head professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., was a stroke back along with Japan’s Kiyoshi Murota.
“I’m not going to adjust my goals because I did have a good day today,” Skinner said. “My main goal coming into this tournament was to just try to stay within each shot and each moment. A lot of times when you’re on the outside looking into a big stage like the Champions Tour, it’s real easy to get excited and your eyes wandering all over the place at how wonderful it is.
“You lose sight of the fact that, ’Hey, I got to play golf.”’
Australia’s Peter Senior and Taiwan’s Chien-Soon Lu shot 68, and Tom Watson, a two-time Senior PGA champion, was another stroke back in a 12-player group that included Kenny Perry, Fred Funk, Rocco Mediate, Russ Cochran, Dan Forsman, Gil Morgan and Bill Glasson.
Defending champion Roger Chapman opened with a 72. Peter Jacobsen, the 2004 U.S. Senior Open winner at Bellerive, had a 75.
The temperature hovered in the low to mid-60s under overcast conditions. A light but steady rain fell three times in the afternoon, with each shower lasting less than 30 minutes.