SAMMAMISH, Wash. — Bruce Vaughan took advantage of cool morning conditions with an opening-round 66 to take a two-shot lead in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open on Thursday.
Less than a week after finishing in a tie for 20th at the Senior British Open, Vaughan picked up where he left off with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes — the 18th a brutal, uphill 465-yard par 4, converted from a par 5. Vaughan then birdied the second, third and sixth holes on his back nine, before bogeying the par-3 9th, his final hole of the day.
It was still the best round of the morning at Sahalee Country Club.
"(I'm) more shocked probably than anything," Vaughan said. "I did everything you were supposed to do. It was nothing crazy."
Loren Roberts shot a 2-under 68, finishing about an hour before Vaughan. Amateur Tim Jackson was also at 2 under, a year after leading this tournament after two rounds and finishing in a tie for 11th. Tom Lehman, Michael Allen and Joe Ozaki were another shot back after 69s.
Roberts methodically worked his way around the course, taking advantage of the few birdie holes and posting just one bogey. He birdied the 14th with a tap-in, then dropped a 20-footer on the 16th. Roberts also then birdied the par-5 second hole, one of only two par 5s on the course.
Hometown favorite Fred Couples endured a roller-coaster round featuring bogeys on three of four holes, followed by three consecutive birdies. He finished at even-par 70.
"I think the score I shot was phenomenal," Couples said. "The way Tom (Watson) played, that was really fun to watch. ... I was very, very mediocre."
Watson played with Couples in front of large early morning galleries that sometimes reached five- and six-deep and snaked around the giant trees framing Sahalee.
The 60-year-old Watson said earlier this week he thought there would be a number of high scores during the tournament. But with cool, receptive conditions, Watson was aggressive and found himself in a tie for the lead at 3 under after dropping a downhill birdie putt on the third, his 12th hole, to go with birdies on Nos. 12, 17 and 2.
Watson said the fatigue of traveling eight time zones from the Senior British Open to the West Coast finally caught up with him, though. He made bogeys with poor iron shots at Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to close his round of 70.
"I'm tired and hurting," Watson said. "When you wake up at 1 o'clock in the morning and can't go back to sleep, it's tough to play."
Defending champion Fred Funk, Senior British Open champ Bernhard Langer and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin highlighted the afternoon pairings.
The giant Douglas firs and cedar trees framing the tight Sahalee layout were unrelenting in penalizing wayward shots. Ozaki barely got 50 yards off the tee on the par-5 second hole when cedar limbs knocked his shot straight to the ground with 440 yards left to the green. Ozaki still managed to par the hole.