Lake Orion, MI – Tom Kite fired a 5-under 65 early Thursday morning, and the round was good enough for him to stand as the leader after the first round of the U.S. Senior Open.
Kite carded six birdies on his front nine to jump out in front, carding a recording-setting 28 before making the turn. It was a good start as he pursues his first victory since 2008.
The 62-year-old is searching for another major title, which have been fairly elusive for him throughout his career. He frequently was in the top-5 and top-10 at majors during his PGA career, but broke through for just one title -- the 1992 U.S. Open.
The same pattern has unfolded during his Champions Tour career. He's been a contender at most majors he's played, but taken only one win -- the Tradition in 2000.
Now, the Texan finds himself in good position to contend for another. Lance Ten Broeck and two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer share second at 4- under 66.
Corey Pavin left the course tied with Kite for the lead at minus-5, but was assessed a two-stroke penalty because his ball moved before his second shot on the fifth hole.
Pavin was agreeable to the assessment, which bumped him back to 3-under 67 and into a tie for fourth with Tom Pernice Jr., Jeff Sluman, Fred Funk and Mikael Hogberg.
Defending champion Olin Browne shot a 1-under 69 and is in a group tied for 15th.
Kite began his round on the Old Course at Indianwood Golf & Country Club at No. 1, and got under par with a birdie at the par-4 second. He followed a hole-out eagle on the fourth with birdies at five and six to reach minus-5, then ended his front nine with back-to-back birdie efforts.
"It was a lot of fun. You don't get rounds like that very often, especially in major championships," Kite said. "The hole just seemed large, and I was hitting some nice shots and obviously getting some nice breaks."
It was a different story on the back nine for Kite, who parred six in a row before stumbling to a double-bogey at the 17th. He parred the last to enter the clubhouse at minus-5.
"This golf course is tough enough that it will bite you," said Kite. "Nobody's going to play 72 holes out here without having it jump up on a hole or two and kick 'em in the rear. It got me on 17 today. There are just some places that if you miss it, you're going to pay the penalty."
Langer soared to the top of the leaderboard with a strong back nine. He turned at even-par, but birdied 11 before running off three in a row from the 13th. That put him a shot behind Kite before he parred out.
Ten Broeck opened spectacularly, with two birdies right out of the gate. However, he bogeyed the fourth and didn't card another birdie until hole No. 9. But he turned in a clean back nine, featuring birdies at 11 and 15.
Pavin, who began his round on the back nine, would have shared the lead with Kite if not for the penalty. He was sitting at minus-4 when he got to the fifth hole, a par 3, where he chipped his second shot before making par.
He went on to birdie No. 8 to seemingly grab a share of first, but after his round, Pavin was summoned to review the shot.
"The ball moved about a dimple or two is what happened," he said. "I thought it had moved and then come back to its position. That's what oscillate means. And it was obvious on the tape that it moved and didn't come back. So, once I saw it in slow motion, I could see it, and it was obvious. It's a two-stroke penalty. That's the way it is."
Despite the penalty, Pavin is still very much in contention and recognized the enforcement of the rule was fair.
"It doesn't change the way I played golf today," Pavin said. "Do I wish it didn't happen? Well, of course. I don't want to have a two-stroke penalty, but that's what happened, and that's the rule."
Behind Pavin's group is a six-way tie for ninth at 2-under 68, between Mark Calcavecchia, Damon Green, Russ Cochran, Roger Chapman, Dick Mast and Fulton Allem.
NOTES: A record 28 players finished with scores in the 60s on Thursday...Langer won this title in 2010...Sean Knapp is the low amateur at even-par 70.