LIGONIER, Pa. – If Graham Marsh, Hale Irwin and Raymond Floyd keep this up, maybe they’ll have to rename it the Senior Citizens PGA Championship.

Marsh and Floyd, both in their 60s, and Irwin, the defending champion who has only a week left in his 50s, upstaged the younger and supposedly stronger members of golf’s 50-and-up club Thursday during the first round of the Senior PGA Championship.

The 61-year-old Marsh, trying to make up for a miserable year so far on the Champions Tour, returned to the putting style he used to win 56 tournaments worldwide for a 4-under 68 and a one-shot lead over Irwin, R.W. Eaks, Dave Barr and Tom McKnight.

Among those in a large group two shots back were the 62-year-old Floyd, who hasn’t won a tournament in five years; Curtis Strange, playing in his first Senior major after having little success on the Champions Tour so far, and Texas club pro Perry Arthur.

Successfully navigating the classic, old-style Laurel Valley Golf Club course, Marsh, Irwin and Floyd again showed that there’s new life in an age group once thought to be long past its prime, even among the seniors.

Lee Trevino once advised new Champions Tour members to play as much as possible before turning 55, figuring it was unlikely they’d do much winning after that. Irwin long ago exposed that theory as myth, winning 16 of his 42 tour titles after turning 55. Only Don January, with eight titles, won even half as many after passing 55.

Leonard grabs lead

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Justin Leonard took advantage of his early tee time, shooting an 8-under 62 Thursday in unusually calm conditions at TPC at Southwind to take a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the St. Jude Classic.

In the fourth group of the morning, Leonard shot his best round since a 61 in the final round at Colonial in 2003, where he finished second.

He birdied his first three holes, six of the opening nine, and finished with eight during his bogey-free round.

After Leonard entered the clubhouse early with a five-stroke lead, Kirk Triplett (64) and Davis Love III (65) did their best to catch up during the afternoon. But Triplett parred his final two holes, while Love finished with seven consecutive pars.

Jason Bohn birdied his final hole and tied Love with a 65.

Sorenstam slides

CORNING, N.Y. – The wind that created havoc for Annika Sorenstam settled down for the afternoon starters at the Corning Classic on Thursday, and Sherri Turner made the most of the improving conditions.

Sorenstam, the defending champion who has won four times in five starts this year, opened with a 3-under 69 in gusty winds, before Turner opened with a 6-under 66 to tie Sophie Gustafson for the lead after the first round.

“It was tricky out there with the wind swirling constantly,” Sorenstam said. “It’s tough to judge, especially when the greens are so small. It makes a big difference if you don’t pick the right club. That’s what happened to me on the first hole.” Turner played in one of the final threesomes of the day and started quickly, making eagle on the par-5 second hole, and carding three more birdies before the turn. She finished with her first round in the 60s this year to tie Gustafson, who closed with five birdies over her final seven holes on the way to her best round of the season.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.