Southport, England – Gene Sauers carded a 3-under 67 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead at the end of the first round of the Senior British Open.
Sauers, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour who is searching for his first win on the senior circuit, was just one of 10 players to post a round under par at Royal Birkdale Golf Club on Thursday.
"It's a great place and a privilege and honor to be here," said Sauers. "I've not played an awful lot of links golf but I like the different challenge; you don't know which way the ball is going to bounce so you're kind of hitting and hoping sometimes, but I'm really enjoying it."
Two-time winners this season David Frost and Bernhard Langer shot matching 2- under 68s to join Peter Senior and Frankie Minoza in second place, while Mitsubishi Electric Championship champion John Cook is among a group of five players at minus-1.
Cook is joined by Corey Pavin, Gary Hallberg, Peter Fowler and Jeff Hart in sixth place.
Rocco Mediate, who won the Allianz Championship in February, carded an even- par 70 to sit in a large group of players tied for 11th place.
Sauers rolled through a steady front nine that included nine straight pars before doing all his scoring in the back nine.
He first reached red numbers with a birdie at the 10th, but quickly gave that shot back with a bogey at the 11th.
After parring his next three holes, the American jumped into the lead with three straight gains from the 15th, which he capped by just missing an eagle at the par-5 17th when his third shot lipped out.
He parred his final hole to stay at 3-under.
"I just made sure I hit a lot of solid shots. If you hit it really solid then the wind won't really mess with it too much and so I'm pleased with the way I played," Sauers said about his opening round.
Frost made the turn at 1-under as he rolled in a birdie at the sixth around eight pars.
He birdied the 10th to move the 2-under, but fell back to even par with bogeys at the 13th and 16th.
However, Frost bounced back with a 3-foot eagle putt at the 17th to again reach 2-under and closed with a par to stay there.
Langer, who won the 2010 Senior British Open at Carnoustie, played his first 14 holes at 1-over before recording three birdies over his last four holes to move within a shot of the lead.
The flurry started with a birdie at the 15th and was capped at the last when his second shot settled about eight feet from the hole.
"How I finished was very pleasing because 18 is not a simple hole," stated Langer. "I wasn't totally happy with my first seven or eight holes, because I had a number of chances to make birdies, and just didn't putt well."
Senior countered a bogey at the fifth with a birdie at the eighth to remain at even par before reaching 2-under with back-to-back gains at the 10th and 11th.
He later moved to 3-under with a birdie at the 17th, but closed with a bogey at the last to finish in a share of second place.
Minoza limped through his first nine holes at 3-over as he recorded bogeys at the first and eighth and a triple-bogey 7 at par-four third around a pair of birdies at the fourth and fifth.
But he bounced back with a strong back nine that included gains at Nos. 10, 14, 15, 16 and 18 to finish a shot off the pace.
"I stayed patient today which is important as I'm still learning how to play the links courses," Minoza said. "You never know what the weather is going to do but I like it because you have to learn how to hit the ball low, how to hit a high ball, how to putt 50 yards off the green."
NOTES: Defending champion Fred Couples stumbled to a 4-over 74 to finish in a tie for 59th place ... Sauers is making his first appearance at the Senior British Open. He appeared in the British Open twice during his career on the PGA Tour ... Sauers holds the lead at the end of the first round for the first time in his Champions Tour career ... First-round leaders have won five of the first 13 stroke-play events on the Champions Tour this year ... Bob Gilder, who shot a 7-over 77 during his opening round, extended his record streak of consecutive major championship starts on the Champions Tour to 63.