BILOXI, Miss. — Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Rapiscan Systems Classic.
Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.
“It just sets up nice to my eye,” Durant said. “It’s a beautiful golf course and it’s very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I’ve ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I’m really happy.”
He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.
“Done this long enough, Friday’s just one day,” Durant said. “Especially in a three-day tournament, you’ve got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.”
Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida
“It’s probably my best round I’ve ever had here and it was a tough day to play,” Calcavecchia said. “The greens are just lightning fast. They’re pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.”
Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.
“Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,” Stricker said. “You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you’re going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.”
Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.
Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.
Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.