Bernhard Langer (pictured by Getty Images) tamed a fiery Royal Porthcawl Golf Club to establish a two stroke lead in the opening round of The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, as he seeks to make amends for missing out on the prestigious title 12 months ago.
The German let a two shot lead slip on the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale last year before eventually losing in a play-off to American Mark Wiebe.
But he appeared in control throughout the opening round of Wales’ first Senior Major Championship, carding seven birdies, including on both of the closing two holes, for a six under par round of 65, with the solitary bogey on his card coming on the 16th hole.
A crowd of 8,763 lined the fairways of the Bridgend links to see some of the game’s most iconic names in action, and on a day when only six players broke par, it was the two-time Masters Champion Langer who impressed the most, shaving two shots off the clubhouse target of four under par set by early starter Bob Tway, of America.
“Whenever you’re under par on a course like this, it’s a good round, and to be six under is very satisfying,” said Langer, the 2004 European Ryder Cup captain. “I played smart. I played pretty good. Not everything was great, but there was a lot of good and some great in it, and I didn’t make too many mistakes and that’s what it comes down to at the end.”
Langer was a wire-to-wire winner of The Senior Open at Carnoustie in 2010, and he believes he can match that feat again this week.
“I hope so,” he said. “It’s been done before. I’ve done it before, so hopefully I can do it again.”
Like Langer, Tway has tasted success in the Majors before, winning the 1986 US PGA Championship, and despite his comparative unfamiliarity with links golf, he made a strong start with birdies on the first, sixth, 12th and 13thholes in a blemish-free round of 67.
“I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate links golf over here more and more,” said Tway. “When I was young I didn’t pay enough attention to it, and you have to because it’s such a contrast to what we play on at home.
“I just think this golf course is great. We don’t get to play this type of golf ever, especially when the ball’s running this fast. So it was a pleasure just to play a nice round of golf on a fantastic course.”
England’s Chris Williams, runner up on the 2010 European Senior Tour Order of Merit, posted a bogey-free three under par round of 68 to sit three shots behind Langer, making all three of his birdies on the front nine.
He said: “Any time you can play this well in a Major Championship is great, with all these tremendous names. They are the legends of golf, and to be part of it and be up there with these great players is fantastic.”
Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn is four shots off the pace following a two under par round of 69, with Canadian Rick Gibson, winner of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open earlier this month, a further shot back alongside Spaniard Pedro Linhart.
Fred Couples came out on top in the marquee group alongside Colin Montgomerie and Tom Watson, the 2012 Senior Open Champion recovering from a treble bogey eight on the sixth hole to card a level par 71 for a share of seventh position.
Scot Montgomerie is one shot further back as he began his bid for a clean sweep of the Senior Majors with a solid one over par 72. The US Senior PGA and US Senior Open Champion mixed bogeys on the seventh, 14th and 16thholes with birdies on the fourth and 18th, while US Ryder Cup Captain Watson signed for a three over par 74.
“To shoot one over par today, to cut a very long story short, that’s okay,” said Montgomerie, who is tied for 16thplace.
“There’s a lot of guesswork going on out there and I’m not very good at guessing. So I’ve got to go back to the poker tables and guess a bit more and see how I go tomorrow.
“But that’s what links golf is like in these conditions. Phil Mickelson managed it at Muirfield, so we have to do the same here.”
Home favourite Ian Woosnam carded an opening round of 73 for a share of 30th position, with debutant Miguel Angel Jiménez a further shot back following a round of 74.
Complete first round scores from The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex (par 71)
65 B Langer (Ger) ,
67 B Tway (USA) ,
68 C Williams (Eng) ,
69 A Oldcorn (Sco) ,
70 R Gibson (Can) , P Linhart (Esp) ,
71 D Frost (RSA) , S Dunlap (USA) , P Fowler (Aus) , F Couples (USA) , K Hutton (Sco) , J Hart (USA) , J Spence (Eng) , S Jones (USA) , G Zahringer (am) (USA) ,
72 B Lane (Eng) , D Smyth (Irl) , D Forsman (USA) , J Carter (USA) , S Brown (Eng) , O Browne (USA) , G Hallberg (USA) , C Mason (Eng) , K Triplett (USA) , C Montgomerie (Sco) , P Walton (Irl) , R Drummond (Sco) , K Tomori (Jpn) , C Lutz (am) (USA) ,
73 P Eales (Eng) , I Woosnam (Wal) , B Ruangkit (Tha) , J Sluman (USA) , E Toledo (Mex) , J Remesy (Fra) , B Cameron (Eng) , J Cook (USA) , M Mackenzie (Eng) , B Vaughan (USA) , G Turner (Nzl) ,
74 M Martin (Esp) , M Belsham (Eng) , J Smith (USA) , G Wolstenholme (Eng) , G Bell (Eng) , M Harwood (Aus) , T Watson (USA) , J Gould (Eng) , F Funk (USA) , M Mouland (Wal) , M Brooks (USA) , R Cochran (USA) , M Jiménez (Esp) , A Forsbrand (Swe) , D Garwood (USA) , A Franco (Par) , J Sanchez (USA) , K Idoki (Jpn) ,
75 M Allen (USA) , P Wesselingh (Eng) , M Goodes (USA) , R Rafferty (Nir) , R Chapman (Eng) , S Pate (USA) , S Tinning (Den) , N Job (Eng) , P Mitchell (Eng) , S Luna (Esp) , P Golding (Eng) , A Webster (Sco) , A Takamatsu (Jpn) , T Thelen (USA) , J Daley (USA) , M Reynard (am) (Eng) ,
76 R Spittle (Can) , M McNulty (Irl) , M Wiebe (USA) , M Farry (Fra) , S Lyle (Sco) , C Lu (Tpe) , A Bossert (Sui) , H Ueda (Jpn) , M Dawson (USA) , W Wood (USA) , L Carbonetti (Arg) , D Westermark (Swe) , M James (Eng) , J Rivero (Esp) , G Stubbington (Eng) , M Davis (Eng) , R Backwell (Aus) ,
77 D Russell (Eng) , C Rocca (Ita) , M Booth (Eng) , E Romero (Arg) , S Okuda (Jpn) , W Short Jr (USA) ,
78 B Conser (USA) , D Thompson (Sui) , J Riegger (USA) , A Murray (Eng) , T Pernice Jnr (USA) , R Evans (Wal) , P Gresswell (Eng) , J Hall (Eng) , W Grant (Eng) , G Brown (Eng) , P Senior (Aus) , P Curry (Eng) ,
79 S Bennett (Eng) , M Cunning (USA) , P Hinton (Eng) , J Carriles (Esp) , P Mortimer (Swe) ,
80 J Nougues (Arg) , C Monasterio (Arg) , D Purchase (Aus) , D O’Sullivan (Irl) , T Johnstone (Zim) , F Illouz (Fra) , J King (Eng) , G Emerson (Eng) , G Manson (Aut) , N Kinghorn (am) (Eng) , J Ambridge (am) (Eng) , D Bell (am) (USA) ,
81 C Acutis (Ita) , K Tenmark (Swe) , G Rusnak (USA) , B Gilder (USA) , C Pavin (USA) ,
82 C Stadler (USA) , G Bruckner (USA) , A Reynolds (Eng) , S Randolph (USA) ,
83 N Sugai (Jpn) , T Lloyd (Eng) , R Lehew (am) (USA) ,
84 G Brand Jnr (Sco) , P Scott (Eng) , G Brand (Eng) ,
85 D Pugh (Eng) , N Gold (am) (Sco) ,
88 T Cooper (am) (Eng) ,
Source: European Tour