Naples, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Colin Montgomerie started his week with a 6- under 66 in Friday's first round and he holds a 1-shot lead at the ACE Group Classic.
Montgomerie, who is a 31-time winner on the European Tour, earned his first two victories on the Champions Tour last season. Those two wins were major titles at the Senior PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open Championship.
"I prefer this golf course, I do, I prefer the golf course," said Montgomerie. "You have a feel to a golf course. I was sixth there last year and I've been looking forward to coming back here. I do like the way this course sets up, a Jack Nicklaus course."
Right behind Montgomerie is Tommy Armour III, who is in sole possession of second place following his 5-under 67 on the Talon Course at The TwinEagles Club.
Defending champion Kirk Triplett had a strong start with a 4-under 68 and he is tied for third with Lee Janzen heading into the weekend.
Last week's Allianz Championship winner Paul Goydos opened with a 3-under 69 and he is tied for fifth with Bobby Wadkins, Marco Dawson, Wes Short, Jr., Esteban Toledo, Scott Dunlap and Michael Allen.
It appeared as if Montgomerie was going to have a rather routine day based on his front nine, but the back side is where the 51-year-old did most of his damage.
After making a putt from about 40 feet for birdie at the first, Montgomerie rattled off eight straight pars to finish his front nine at 1-under.
Montgomerie then turned things on after making the turn as he drained three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 10.
A pair of pars on 14 and 15 preceded back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17, giving Montgomerie the lead at minus-6. He finished strong with a par on the tough par-4 18th to secure the first-round lead.
"I had eight birdie putts and didn't hole one of them, so that was disappointing to turn at 35," Montgomerie admitted. "Then as the wind picked up and it got more difficult, I happened to hole some putts on the back nine and that's all really."
Armour started with two pars on one and two before rolling in his first birdie at the par-5 third. After a par at four, Armour drained back-to-back gains on five and six before closing the front nine with three pars from seven.
Armour later made three birdies in a four-hole stretch again on 12, 13 and 15. He also managed to make his only bogey on No. 14. Armour finished up with a trio of pars from 16 to take the clubhouse lead before Montgomerie surged into the lead later on.
Triplett had a big front nine with four birdies in five holes from No. 4, but he slowed down some on the back nine. A gain on 12 got the defending champ up to minus-5, but he was unable to find his tee shot on 14, which later resulted in a double-bogey. A birdie at the last jumped Triplett into a share for third heading into the second round.
Janzen traded a birdie on four for a bogey on six, but four straight gains from eight had him rolling around the turn. Janzen made his second bogey at 14 before getting that shot back with a birdie on 17, getting him back to minus-4.
NOTES: Montgomerie's last win on the European Tour was at the 2007 Smurfit Kappa European Open ... Montgomerie won a record eight Order of Merit titles on the European Tour, including a stretch of seven straight ... Armour has never won on the Champions Tour, while Triplett has four victories ... Triplett won twice last year, one at this event and the other at the SAS Championship.