NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. - A number of the tees were up and some of the pins were center cuts yesterday for the first round of the Senior PGA Championship at soggy Aronimink Golf Club.
Any other approach, said Bobby Wadkins, and it “would have been like a Rocky movie, the last man standing.”
Wadkins' standing wasn't bad at the quarter pole of the first major championship of the year for senior golfers. The second stop will be the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club on June 26-29.
Wadkins joined John Jacobs and Mike San Filippo, a teaching pro and Champions Tour rookie, atop the leaderboard with opening rounds of 2-under-par 68. Seven golfers, including defending champion Fuzzy Zoeller, finished a stroke off the pace with 69s.
Distance and accuracy were certainly the keys yesterday on a wet course with high, damp, gnarly rough.
Hardly anybody is longer than Jacobs, who has won more than 100 long-driving contests and averages 284 yards off the tee on the Champions Tour.
And hardly anyone was more accurate yesterday than Wadkins, the runner-up in this event a year ago at Firestone Country Club, who missed just one of 14 fairways.
“When I'm playing well, the driver is usually the best club in my bag,” Wadkins said. “Hitting 13 out of 14 fairways is very, very good. The fairways are soft, so if you land it in the fairways, it'll stay in 'em. Trust me, you don't want to be in that rough. You have to keep it in play.”
Jacobs did that almost as well, hitting 11 of 14 fairways, but often found mud on his ball when he reached it.
“It's such a wonderful tournament and course that you hate to complain about anything, but I don't think we should have played the ball down,” Jacobs said. “I had mud on my ball every hole and unless the pin was in the middle of the green I didn't shoot at it because I didn't know which way the ball was going to go.”
Other scores of interest included Craig Stadler's even-par 70 in his first round as a senior, Tom Watson's 71, Hale Irwin's 73 and Jack Nicklaus' 75. Arnold Palmer, 73, made a run at shooting his age, making the turn in 2-over before struggling on the back nine for a 9-over 79.
Wadkins, who rallied after scoring bogeys on two of his first three holes, was asked if his narrow miss a year ago made him hungrier.
“I guess that would be a great story line, that I let one slip away last year and dedicated my whole life to winning this year, but that would be bull,” he said. “I play hard and try to win every week.”39.98775 -75.40016