BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The Champions Tour players put on long-sleeved pullovers and tried to figure out which way the wind was swirling from hole to hole. They left Shoal Creek with little separation at the top.
Jay Haas, Mark Calcavecchia, Olin Browne and Chien Soon Lu shared the first-round lead at 3-under 69 on Thursday in the Regions Tradition, the first of the 50-and-over tour's five majors. Nine others were within two strokes of the lead.
With windy, unseasonably cool conditions, it was the highest score for first-round leaders at the Tradition since three players tied at 3-under in 1990 at Desert Mountain Club in Arizona. The course absorbed more than an inch of rain heading into Thursday and the players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls.
The Tradition hasn't been so tightly bunched in the top spot after the first round since a seven-way tie in 2008 and the average score was about two strokes higher than last year's first round.
"The winds were very tricky," the 60-year-old Haas said. "I kind of had a handle on it, I thought, on the front nine. And then by the time we got to about 13, 14, 15, I had no idea which way the wind was blowing.
"With all the trees and the valley and everything, you get a lot of swirling winds and you just have to be extra careful and think it out and then hit the shot that you're planning to hit, which I did most of the time."
Calcavecchia birdied three of the final nine holes and came within a whisker of a fourth and the solo lead on No. 18.
"When it was about 10 feet short, I didn't think it could miss," he said. "It was just dead center the whole way and the last couple of feet, it was still in the middle of the hole and it just dribbled just a shade to the right and singed the right lip.
"That would have been nice to walk that one in to end the day. Those are the ones that make the rest of the day go by a little bit better, dinner taste a little better."
Haas capped a run of three straight birdies with a 50-foot putt on the 12th hole to move to 5 under. He finished with six birdies and had bogeys on three holes, including two of the next four after the long putt.
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