(Reuters) - Defending champion Bernhard Langer of Germany birdied four of his last five holes to charge into a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the Senior Players Championship on Thursday in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Langer picked up shots at the 14th, 15th, 17th and the par-four last to fire a six-under 65 in tricky, blustery conditions at Belmont Country Club.
That left the 57-year-old two ahead of Americans Rocco Mediate, Lee Janzen and Guy Boros in the third of the season’s five major championships for senior golfers.
Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, who retained his Senior PGA Championship crown at the French Lick Resort last month, opened with a 68 to end the round level with American Gene Sauers.
“I was watching the leaderboards and I saw a bunch of three and four-unders so I figured that (a 65) must be doable,” Langer, who has won four major titles on the Champions Tour, told reporters.
“I just tried to play shot by shot and make the best of it. It’s still early in the week so I‘m just trying to not shoot myself in the foot and be in contention.”
Langer, who won last year’s Senior PGA Championship in a playoff with American Jeff Sluman, said the gusting winds has posed continual problems.
“You were just hoping to hit it at the right gust at the right time kind of thing, whatever club you picked,” said the former world number one.
”My game was pretty decent obviously. Tried to keep it in the fairway as much as possible because whenever you come out of the rough, you don’t know if you’re going to get a flyer or a dead ball.
“I was pretty happy with my putting even though I had a three-putt. In general, I holed out pretty good from six to 10 feet.”
Montgomerie, whose four-shot victory last month at French Lick earned him his third major title as a senior, was delighted after carding three birdies in a flawless display.
“If you are bogey-free around there today in the wind and the way the course is set up, you’re obviously doing nothing much wrong really,” said the 51-year-old Scot.
“So bogey-free was good today. Had a couple of opportunities to drop shots and managed to hole a couple of putts at the right time.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Keating