TOLEDO, Ohio Another first round of an Open, another terrific day for Tom Watson.
With memories from his surprising performance at Olympia Fields still vivid, Watson shot a 5-under-par 66 to take a three-stroke lead after the rain-shortened opening round of the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club on Thursday.
A thunderstorm suspended play with 36 of the 156 players still on the course. The first round will be completed Friday morning. The second round will start as scheduled.
Bruce Lietzke was alone in second after a 69. Mike McCullough and J.C. Snead were the only other players to break par, each with a 70. The top four players all went off early in the morning.
Two weeks ago, Watson electrified the U.S. Open galleries by shooting a 65 to share the lead after the first round.
This round lacked the emotion of that one. There were no hugs with ailing caddie Bruce Edwards, just an occasional exchange of fist pumps after another long birdie putt found the hole.
Watson parred his first three holes and then started rolling. Up against the heaviest rough on the 13th hole (his fourth hole), he hit the ball with the blade of his pitching wedge and holed it from 15 feet.
On the next hole, he made a 45-foot putt with a big right-to-left break for another birdie. He made it three in a row with another tilting 25-footer.
Watson made two bogeys coming home on the front side, but offset them with four more birdies including a 25-foot putt at No. 1 and a 35-footer at No. 5.
Winner of five British Opens, two Masters and the 1982 U.S. Open, Watson is winless in three tries at the Senior Open.
After fading in the final three rounds to finish 12 shots behind Jim Furyk at Olympia Fields, Watson returned to his home in Kansas City and worked on his game.
Edwards, who first caddied for Watson in 1973, was diagnosed in January with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease. Watson also spent his week away increasing his efforts to raise money to fight ALS.
Inverness is a classic tree-lined course that has hosted U.S. Opens in 1920, 1931, 1957 and 1979 and PGA Championships in 1986 and 1993. No one expected the best seniors to tear it up, including Watson, who said he thought it altogether possible that no one would break par for the week.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. Jay Haas and Darron Stiles shot 7-under-par 64s Thursday and shared a one-stroke lead in the suspended first round of the rainy St. Jude Classic.
Play stopped twice because of rain at the TPC at Southwind course, and more rain and darkness kept 56 golfers from finishing the round.
Haas, 49, picked up where he left off last week with a final-round 65 to tie for fourth at the Buick Classic. In the first group off the No. 1 tee, Haas bogeyed the first hole before reeling off seven straight birdies for the first time in his career as part of a nine-birdie, two-bogey round.
''I've always enjoyed playing here,'' said Haas, who won here in 1992. ''I know you just can't afford to give too many away here. It turned around quickly, and I started hitting a lot of good shots and making every putt I looked at.''
Stiles, a three-time winner on the Nationwide Tour enjoying his first season on the PGA Tour, nearly had the lead to himself at 8 under after a bogey-free round with five birdies and an eagle. He had just hit to 12 feet on the par-4 18th when thunderstorms stopped play for nearly two hours.
He worked on the putt on the practice green just before play resumed, but the ball circled the lip of the cup, forcing him to tap in for par.
Stiles, who survived a cancerous tumor in his jaw in 1989, didn't mind because he still had a share of the lead.
''It's a great feeling no doubt,'' he said. ''Obviously on this tour, I haven't been in that position. It's been a while since I've been a first-round leader on any tour.''
Robert Damron was a stroke back. David Gossett, who grew up playing this course, was tied with Stan Utley and Dennis Paulson at 66.
David Peoples was at 6 under with two holes left, while defending champion Len Mattiace was at 5 under when play stopped on his 18th hole.
Haas' best birdie run in his career before Thursday had been six. He knew the PGA Tour record is eight in a row because his uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, was the first of five golfers to do that.
Haas used his putter to get rolling after hitting a tree in the left rough with his drive on the par-4, 426-yard first. Haas rolled in for birdie from 3 feet on No. 2, two-putted from 50 feet on No. 3, sank 18-footers on the next two holes and then rolled in from 12 feet on both Nos. 6 and 7.
He was thinking of that record when he pounded his drive on the par-4 ninth but hit a pitching wedge to the right side of the green. He wound up with a 10-foot putt to save par.
''I got a little nervous on No. 9, trying to stuff one in there,'' Haas said. ''It was just a fun day.''
Haas needed just 24 putts, including a 10-footer on No. 17 to drop to 7 under.
This time last year, Stiles was on the other end of Tennessee winning the Knoxville Open on the Nationwide Tour. He has made the cut in eight of 13 PGA events this year with his best finish a tie for 21st at the Houston Open in April.
Stiles played the last three weeks, then returned to Asheville, N.C., for two days off at home Monday and Tuesday. He arrived in Memphis on Wednesday afternoon and walked the 7,030-yard course for the tournament sponsored by FedEx.
Everything worked for him Thursday, when he hit his irons very well with his longest birdie putt a 20-footer on No. 8. He eagled the par-5, 527-yard fifth despite hitting his drive into the left rough and then a 5-wood 15 feet behind the hole.
He watched Steve Allan putt the same line, then Stiles holed out from 15 feet. Stiles had only two birdies on the back nine, and he knew he tied Haas when he chipped to 8 feet on the par-5, 528-yard 16th and holed out for birdie.
''It's good to see not seeing the golf course doesn't really affect me that much,'' Stiles said.
Divots: John Daly withdrew shortly before his morning tee time, forcing Nick Price and Bob Estes to play as a twosome. Senior rules official Arvin Ginn caught up with Daly in the parking lot and asked him why he was pulling out. Daly responded by vomiting. ''I saw the man. He was sick, hunkered down sick,'' Ginn said. ... Fred Wadsworth and David Berganio Jr. also withdrew.
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