CHIBA, Japan (AP) Kevin Sutherland and Glen Day shot 7-under 65 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the Japan Airlines Championship, the first PGA Tour Champions event in Japan.
”The greens are fabulous,” Sutherland said. ”It’s not even just good shape, it’s in great shape. So as a result of that, it lends itself to some good scoring.”
Winless on the 50-and-over tour, Sutherland has had at least a share of the first-round lead in three of the last four events. He ended up losing to childhood rival Scott McCarron – a stroke back Friday – the previous two times, finishing second three weeks ago in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in upstate New York and tying for third last week in the Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary, Alberta.
Sutherland closed with a bogey, three-putting the par-4 ninth at Narita Golf Club.
”Early in the round I hit the ball really, really well,” Sutherland said. ”I drove the ball very well. On the back side, I made a bunch of long putts and unfortunately I three-putted the last hole. But I left myself a lot of long putts and that’s going to happen eventually. If I drive the ball a little bit better tomorrow, I’m going to like my chances.”
He’s making his first trip to Japan.
”It’s been fabulous,” Sutherland said. ”I’ve never been to Tokyo before. It’s an amazing city. I’ve had just a great time. The people can’t be nicer. It makes you want to come back.”
The only player to shoot 59 in tour history, the 53-year-old Sutherland has five straight top-10 finishes. His lone PGA Tour victory came in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat fellow Sacramento, California, player McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final.
The 51-year-old Day also bogeyed his last hole – the par-4 18th.
”I didn’t play great, but I scored great,” said Day, also winless on the senior tour after winning one PGA Tour title. ”I’m not hitting the ball on the button by any means. I missed the 18th fairway by 50 yards. But I putted great and so, hey, they don’t draw pictures.”
McCarron has won three of the last six events to tie Bernhard Langer for the tour victory lead with four.
”I had a nice round today,” said McCarron, also visiting Japan for the first time. ”I missed some putts I should have made and I made some putts I shouldn’t have made. So today was kind of a Jerry Seinfeld day, even steven. Just one of those things. I missed a couple of short ones and some easy birdie putts and all of a sudden I make putts that break 8 feet.”
Japan’s Massy Kuramoto was two strokes back at 67 along with Paul Goydos, Billy Mayfair, Carlos Franco, Wes Short Jr., Gene Sauers and Steve Flesch. Kuramoto has seven victories on the Japan Senior Golf Tour after winning 34 times on the Japan Golf Tour. Goydos, the 3M Championship winner last month in Minnesota, parred the final 10 holes after playing the first eight in 5 under.
Fan favorite John Daly, playing alongside McCarron, opened with a 69.
Tom Watson, at 68 years old, shot a 70.