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Trio atop 1st-round leaderboard at Senior Players Championship

| Thursday, June 26, 2014, 12:18 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Joe Durant tees off on the 16th hole during the first round of the Senior Players Championship on Thursday, June 26, 2014, at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

There is a logjam atop the leaderboard with three players sharing the first-round lead at the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Joe Durant, David Frost and Doug Garwood posted 6-under 64 on Thursday to hold a 1-shot lead over eight others — including former Masters champions Larry Mize and Bernhard Langer, and former U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin. They are among eight to tally 5-under 65 on the 6,696-yard, par-70 course.

Colin Montgomerie, seeking his second major this year, threatened to overtake the leaders as he finished the outward nine with 5-under 30. But he faded on the inward nine, recording bogeys on the final three holes, including a three-putt bogey on the par-4 17th.

A visibly frustrated Montgomerie strolled slowly to the scoring tent, then rushed toward the clubhouse without uttering a word to the media. The residual of a back-nine 39 and an opening-round 69 leaves the Senior PGA Championship winner five shots behind the front runners.

Rocco Mediate, a Greensburg native, chased after the leaders during the morning wave. But a bogey on the par-4 16th and a missed 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th thwarted his momentum to leave him three shots off the lead with a 3-under 67.

“I'm trying to go back to my old way of doing things,” Mediate said. “It's a little hard to explain. I was very pleased.

“I missed that one fairway (16th hole) by a yard. You don't want to miss fairways. The rough's brutal.”

Durant, playing in his final Champions Tour event until August, was solid off the tee and missed only a handful of greens. More importantly, he kept the ball out of the sometimes-unforgiving rough that was mostly under water following Wednesday's heavy rain.

“It's not the thickest rough, but it's very wet and dense,” Durant said. “It's a penalty if you get in there, and you're at the mercy of the lie.

“It's not the longest course we play, so you can attack, especially as soft as the greens are.”

Durant positioned the ball perfectly in the rain-soaked fairways, except for a wayward drive on the par-4 12th that led to his only bogey. He often left himself with short irons into the slippery, yet receptive greens.

“I had some really good numbers today and a lot of full shots were I could be aggressive,” Durant said. “I think the hardest shots were the little wedges that you couldn't put too much spin on.”

Garwood, who lost a four-shot lead at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, earlier this year, finished with a flurry. He birdied four of five holes — including three in a row (12, 13 and 14) to keep pace.

“I can't think about winning the tournament or trying to shoot 64,” Garwood said. “In Iowa, I was thinking about winning. I was thinking about winning by 10. Winning is something that happens at the very end.”

Mize had five birdies and an eagle, but two errors on relatively benign par-4s dulled an otherwise impressive round characterized by an excellent short game. He ignited his round with an eagle on the par-5, 483-yard second hole, but stumbled with bogeys on the 450-yard, par-4 ninth and the 432-yard, par-4 13th.

Mize's putter failed down the stretch. Still, he sank a 12-footer on the 383-yard par-4 15th before failing to take advantage of the closing hole, the reachable 574-yard, par 5 where he missed a 13-footer.

“I played 18 solid, and barely missed my birdie putt,” Mize said. “I'm very pleased, but I missed a couple of putts, especially one on 9 that I normally make. I don't have any complaints, but 65 is a really good round around this golf course.”

Ralph Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com.

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