Mark McNulty has a simple explanation for his recent success at the JELD-WEN Tradition. He loves the Crosswater course.
"I stand on the first tee and I just feel comfortable," the defending champion said Thursday after firing a 5-under 67 for a share of the first-round lead at the fourth of the Champions Tour's five majors. "Everybody has golf courses where you just look down there and you can't see anything. The comfort zone is the most important thing."
Craig Stadler, Gene Jones, Mark Wiebe, Tim Simpson, Jay Haas and David Eger joined McNulty at top of the leaderboard. The seven-man logjam matched the 1989 GTE North Classic for the biggest tie after 18 holes in Champions Tour history.
Taking advantage of calm and clear conditions to attack the fairways and pins, 15 players finished within a shot of the lead and 46 of the 68 players were even par or better on the Crosswater course _ the tour's longest at 7,533 yards.
The 54-year-old McNulty, from Zimbabwe, has three top-five finishes this year and hasn't missed a cut. He blistered the course with a 16-under 272 last year in the event's first year at Crosswater. In five rounds, he has shot 66, 68, 68, 70 and 67.
"I played nice and steady and had a good front nine to start," McNulty said. "That's what you want when you come back to defend a title."
Wiebe played well after poor results in the Senior British Open, where he finished at 7 over, and the Senior U.S. Open, where he missed the cut. Wiebe, born in Seaside, Ore., birdied five holes on the front nine, including four in a row.
Stadler birdied five holes on the back nine and could have held the lead outright, but he double-bogeyed the 456-yard, par-4 18th.
"I looked at the turn and saw Stads was at 7 under," said Haas, who birdied five of the first 12 holes and just missed birdie putts at 15 and 17. "Then I didn't see a board again until 15 and I saw the lead was five. I thought they just hadn't updated that board yet."
Tournament host Peter Jacobsen withdrew from the field before teeing off because of a hip injury. The Portland native also has battled knee and back injuries and has withdrawn from the tournament in each of his last three years.
Divots:@ Former Ryder Cup player Des Smyth found out Thursday that 24-year-old son Gregory won the Irish National Lottery, worth about $14 million. Smyth shot a 71. "It's all very surreal," Des Smyth said. "Being so far away from things, it's hard to grasp. We got a call in the hotel at 6:20 a.m. this morning. Usually when you get a call that early, it's not good but he assured us right at the start that it was good news he was about to tell us. I played today but honestly can't remember a single shot I hit. I was thinking about him all day. He'll be well advised for sure. I just hope he takes it." ... Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer birdied the final four holes and was among the eight players one shot off the lead at 4 under.