By Cliff Brunt ,AP
EDMOND, Oklahoma — Colin Montgomerie twice sank three consecutive birdies en route to a 6-under 65 on Thursday that put him a stroke clear atop the leaderboard after the opening round of the U.S. Senior Open.
The Scotsman started his round on the back nine at Oak Tree National and birdied Nos. 14, 15 and 16 in hot and humid conditions and then did it again at six, seven and eight.
“That was the key to the round, the three birdies in a row on the front nine, my back nine,” Montgomerie said. “To birdie six, seven, eight was good. That got me to the position I am now.”
Marco Dawson was second after a 66, and Mark Brooks was third after shooting 68. Bernhard Langer was one of five tied for fourth with a 69.
Dawson, in his first Senior Open, started on the back nine and shot 2 under, then was steady on the front nine before scoring birdies on seven, eight and nine. The 50-year-old was pleased with the performance, especially considering the course’s challenging reputation.
“It just seemed to happen; birdie, birdie, birdie the last three holes, so I ended up 5 under,” he said. “I could have shot 2 under and still would have been a good round.”
Brooks was 4-under after just four holes following consecutive birdies from 11-14 but dropped one stroke for the remainder of a largely steady round.
“I’ve been playing here since high school,” he said. “I’m comfortable here. My mother and father both are Oklahomans, so I got a lot of Oklahoma blood in me.”
Langer, who entered the Senior Open having already won three events this year, was in a five-way tie for fourth along with Vijay Singh, Kirk Triplett, Scott Dunlap and Gene Sauers.
“They say you don’t win a tournament on the first day,” Langer said. “You can certainly lose it with a bad round, so I’m somewhere in the top 10 or top 20 after today, which is a good spot to be. Still have three rounds to go.”
Kenny Perry, last year’s Senior Open winner, shot a 75.
Play was delayed for 77 minutes at the start due to the threat of lightning, and that meant three players did not complete their round before play was suspended due to darkness.
With temperatures in the mid-30s and high humidity, Darrell Kestner withdrew after 14 holes and required treatment for heat-related issue.
Heavy rains Wednesday softened the course, but the heat Thursday made it hard later in the day. Changing winds added another degree of difficulty to an already long, tough course.