Senior Open: American Gene Sauers tops the leaderboard on day one at Royal Birkdale
Gene Sauers leads the way at the Senior Open Championship at Royal Birkdale after shooting a three-under par 67.
Last Updated: 25/07/13 10:12pm
Sauers, who only returned to the game fewer than two years ago following a potentially fatal skin condition, is one shot clear of a four-strong pack that includes Bernhard Langer, Frankie Minoza, Peter Senior and David Frost.
Defending champion Fred Couples struggled to a four-over par while Senior Open debutant Colin Montgomerie went two better to finish the day five shots behind Sauers.
Sauers reached the turn in a bogey-free 34 and made his first birdie of the day at the par-four 10th.
He then bogeyed the following hole, but went on to finish well, making a hat-trick of gains in succession from the 15th.
"I'm very proud of that," he told europeantour.com. "I just made sure I hit a lot of solid shots. If you hit it really solid then the wind won't really mess with it too much and so I'm pleased with the way I played.
"It's a great place and a privilege and honour to be here. I've not played an awful lot of links golf but I like the different challenge; you don't know which way the ball is going to bounce so you're kind of hitting and hoping sometimes but I'm really enjoying it."
Alongside Langer on 68 are David Frost of South Africa, Australian Peter Senior and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.
Sauers' compatriot Fred Couples, the defending champion, struggled to a four-over-par 74.
Langer made 13 pars and bogeyed once up to and including the 14th, and then, like Sauers, concluded strongly with three birdies in his last four holes.
Reflecting on that round, the 55-year-old said: "How I finished was very pleasing because 18 (which he birdied) is not a simple hole.
"I wasn't totally happy with my first seven or eight holes because I had a number of chances to make birdies and just didn't putt well.
"But it was very tight. I played very well off the tee and into the greens and gave myself opportunities, kept it out of these pot bunkers and out of the long grass.
"I had opportunities and finally the putter started working at the end."