Pittsburgh, PA – Bruce Vaughan fired a 6-under 64 on Thursday to take the lead after one round of the Senior Players Championship, the third major of the Champions Tour season.
Vaughan drained four birdies on his front nine and didn't record a bogey during his round at Fox Chapel Golf Club. He holds a one-stroke advantage over Fred Funk, whose 5-under 65 put him alone in second place.
But behind Vaughan and Funk, some big-name players are lurking -- defending champion Fred Couples, three-time Champions Tour major winner Tom Lehman, and money leader Michael Allen. They, along with Joe Daley, share third at minus-4.
Greg Norman, playing on the Champions Tour for the first time since 2009, shot a 3-under 67 and is tied for seventh with Jim Thorpe and Bill Glasson.
The players near the top of the leaderboard are fitting for a tournament of the Senior Players' stature. It's a who's who of golf.
Funk owns eight PGA Tour titles and seven on the Champions Tour, including three majors. Couples, the 1992 Masters winner, has recorded 15 PGA titles and seven on the senior circuit, including the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in March.
Lehman won the '96 British Open, and took his second consecutive Tradition title in June. Allen has already won twice this year, and Norman totaled 34 wins on the PGA and European Tours, including two British Open wins.
But while Vaughan never won on the PGA Tour, and has picked up just one title since moving on to the Champions circuit, that title was a big one -- the 2008 Senior British Open.
So Vaughan is not a stranger to being in contention at majors, and got off to a good start Thursday.
The 55-year-old went on a nice run starting from the par-3 third, which he birdied. He also birdied the fifth, then made two in a row from the seventh to reach minus-4.
Vaughan stayed at that score around the turn, and actually parred his next six holes. But he picked up another stroke at the 15th, and went into the clubhouse as the early leader after a birdie at the par-5 last.
"The greens are really fast, and my speed was good, the pace was good," Vaughan said. "When the greens are this fast, you've got to have a big imagination because you've got to play a lot more break than you normally would."
Nobody ended up catching him.
Funk came close. He carded just two birdies on the front nine, but played productive golf late on his back nine.
After birdies at 13 and 15 pushed Funk to minus-4, he bogeyed 16. But he drained birdies at his final two holes to enter the clubhouse at 5-under.
Couples broke through last August at this event for his first Champions Tour major triumph, beating John Cook on the third playoff hole.
He's in contention once again, thanks to a clean round that included birdies at two, nine, 12 and 18.
Earlier in the day, Lehman got off to a blazing start while playing in the third group of the day, along with Norman and Tom Watson. He birdied five of his first seven holes, but had his momentum stopped by back-to-back bogeys from the 11th. He couldn't put another run together, but did birdie his last.
His playing partner, Norman, was up and down all day after opening with a bogey-birdie sequence. The Australian carded five more birdies during his round, but also two bogeys.
Allen teed off two groups later and didn't pull himself up the leaderboard until the back nine. He birdied 10 and 11, then used an eagle at the last to reach minus-4.
Daley was in the final threesome to hit the course Thursday and, like Lehman, birdied five of his first seven. But a double bogey at eight and a bogey at 10 pushed him back down the leaderboard. He did birdie 13 and 15, and that was good enough for him to get into a share of third.
NOTES: Norman is playing the Senior Players Championship for the first time...Watson, an eight-time major winner, shot even-par 70 and is tied for 21st. He returned to competition for the first time in more than two months, having been sidelined with a right hand/arm injury.