The Cochise Course at Desert Mountain has swallowed up plenty of Jim Ferree’s shots. On Thursday, it gave some back.
Ferree opened with a 5-under-par 67 to take a two-shot lead in the Tradition in Scottsdale, Ariz., the first of four majors on the Senior PGA Tour.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played a bogeyfree round here,” he said.
Ferree, 63, the oldest golfer to lead the 7-year-old tournament, used just 27 putts in a masterful display.
“I was very fortunate out there today,” said Ferree, who won once on the regular tour and has claimed two senior titles since turning 50 in 1981. “Every time I hit a shot that looked good, it was, and my OK shots ended up OK.”
In the group two shots back were two of golf’s greats - Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course and won the Tradition in 1990 and 1991, and Gary Player. They were teamed in a gallerypleasing threesome with Arnold Palmer.
Others at 69 included Bob Charles, Calvin Peete and Jerry McGee.
Defending champion Ray Floyd, 1992 Tradition winner Lee Trevino, Jay Sigel and George Archer, who won the last senior tour event two weeks ago, were three shots off the pace, and Palmer, Bruce Summerhays, Larry Gilbert, Kermit Zarley, Buddy Allin, Bruce Crampton and Isao Aoki bettered par at 71.
Ferree birdied three of the first four holes with putts of 5, 16 and 10 feet.
J.L. Lewis, a working club pro last year who never finished better than 28th in a PGA tournament, shot an 8-under 64 to take the first-round lead at the rainsoaked Freeport-McMoRan Golf Classic in New Orleans.
Brad Bryant, who in 18 years on the tour has won millions of dollars but never a tournament, was one stroke back at 65.
Kirk Triplett of Pullman, Ronnie Black and Mike Heinen were two strokes back.