EDMOND, Okla. (AP) — Colin Montgomerie declared Bernhard Langer the favorite heading into the U.S. Senior Open.
After 18 holes, Montgomerie may well have seized that position himself with a 6-under 65 to lead at the end of Thursday at Oak Tree National.
The Scotsman started on No. 10 and birdied Nos. 14, 15 and 16 on the way to a 33 on the back nine. He birdied six, seven and eight to finish strong in oppressive heat and humidity.
"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. Langer was one of five golfers 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 said it was one of the two best rounds he's played in his six Champions Tour events. He was pleased with the performance, especially considering the course's challenging reputation.
"It just seemed to happen, you know, 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 birdied the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes to go 4 under on his first five holes. He shot 3 under on the back nine and even on the front nine.
"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, you know, 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.