OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Larry Mize had such a good day, even his flubbed shots ended up being effective.
Mize birdied half the holes and shot an 8-under 64 on Thursday for a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer, Corey Pavin and Steve Flesch after the opening round of the Senior Players Championship.
Seeking his second win on the PGA Tour Champions, the 58-year-old Mize was 5 under after the front nine. He made his only bogey on the par-4 10th hole, but rebounded with birdies on 14, 15 and 16.
“On 15, I hit the 5-iron a little thin but got away with it. Missed it in the right spot and made the putt,” Mize said. “That’s what you’ve got to do when you have these rounds – miss it in the right spot at the right time. That’s what I did today.”
That kind of good fortune, along with a 50-foot putt for a birdie on the ninth hole, provided Mize with the second-best round of his PGA Tour Champions career.
Langer, the three-time defending champion, had a bogey-free round on the 7,196-yard Caves Valley Golf Course.
“I played very nicely, played smart, played well,” he said.
The 59-year-old German has already won three events and $1.8 million this year, leaving little doubt that he’s the player to beat this weekend.
“I don’t know if words can do justice to what he’s done to stay that focused, that on top of it,” Mize said.
Mize won the 2010 Montreal Championship for his lone senior title. He won the 1987 Masters and three regular PGA Tour titles.
Pavin eagled the 372-yard, par-4 11th as part of a 5-under 31 on the back nine.
“Hit a 3-wood off the tee and had 120 yards in,” he said. “One-bounced it in the hole.”
Flesch gained entry to the tournament Wednesday after Bart Bryant withdrew. He took the last flight out of Cincinnati to play in his sixth tournament since he turned 50 on May 23.
Brandt Jobe and Scott Dunlap shot 66. Jobe was 8 under before pushing a 7-iron off the tee and into the water on No. 17. That led to a double bogey, and he bogeyed 18.
“You know what? I played good today. I’m not even going to be mad,” Jobe said. “I made one bad swing and that was on 17. That’s just golf. Didn’t finish how I wanted to, but it was a good day and I’m in good shape.”
Jobe was part of a prestigious threesome that included Langer and Kenny Perry.
“It’s always sad to see when somebody plays so good and keeps hanging in there and had a great score going and then you blow it the last hole or two,” Langer said. “It was tough to watch.”
Perry shot a 73. He won the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago in Massachusetts.
John Daly pleased the crowd with loud orange, black and white pants that featured the Baltimore Orioles logo. He shot a 70.
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