Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Murota unlikely Senior PGA leader

LOUISVILLE -- About the last person anyone expected to see atop the leaderboard at the Senior PGA Championship was Japan's Kiyoshi Murota.

And that includes Murota.

The 55-year-old golf teacher and touring pro surprised even himself by shooting a 6-under 66 Thursday to overshadow stars such as Mark O'Meara and Tom Watson, and grab the first-round lead in the weather-plagued senior major.

Asked if he came to the tournament thinking he might win it, Murota laughed and said through an interpreter, "Nothing. No chance."

So, think you can shoot another 66?

"No. No more," he said to laughter.

Murota had a one-shot lead over alternate Trevor Dodds, with former Masters and British Open winner O'Meara another stroke back after a 68. Watson, an eight-time major champion, shot a 70. Half the field was still on the course when darkness ended the first round. Most played fewer than nine holes.

Murota was the unlikeliest of leaders. He has six Japan Tour victories and five more on that country's version of the senior circuit. But he has not won on the international stage or on American soil.

In his four previous appearances in the Senior PGA Championship, his worst finish was a tie for 33rd in 2007 and his best a tie for 14th in 2006.

He was 1 under through eight holes before birdieing the next four. Even though he had eight one-putt greens in a span of nine holes, he said after the round that he is typically an average putter.

"I'm usually so-so," he said. "Only today good."

Accuracy was his greatest ally. He hit 10 fairways on a day when some of the game's top names found big problems when they strayed into the thick rough. Four times he hit into bunkers, and he saved par each time.

Dodds was fortunate to even get in the field. He was on the outside looking in until Tuesday when Joey Sindelar withdrew with a bad back.

The St. Louis resident, originally from Namibia, needed just 23 putts to fashion his 67. He chipped in at the par-4 12th.

Storms hit the course on Wednesday night, and again Thursday morning. The start was delayed because of 1 1/2 inches of rain overnight along with some wind damage.

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