Stricker’s 63 leads Senior Players after Round 1

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AKRON, Ohio — Steve Stricker determined on the final minute to play the Senior Gamers Championship as an alternative of the PGA Tour, and he made it repay Thursday at Firestone.

Stricker holed a bunker shot on the par-3 twelfth for a birdie, ran off three straight birdies on the finish of his opening 9 holes and saved bogeys off his card for a 7-under 63. That gave him a four-shot lead over Ken Duke and Paul Broadhurst.

It was simply the beginning he wanted after his final two occasions on the PGA Tour Champions. The Ryder Cup captain misplaced an incredible probability to win the Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills with a 77 within the last spherical, and he received off to such a poor begin in his American Household Insurance coverage Championship {that a} closing 65 was solely good for a tie for seventh.

On the PGA Tour or towards guys his personal age, placing — the hallmark of his profession — has held him again and Stricker, 54, discovered himself tinkering at dwelling in Wisconsin.

“I have never been placing like I am accustomed to placing, so I have been actually grinding on that so much at dwelling, altering grips and putters far and wide,” he mentioned. “I received a brand new grip on the putter this week, however we’ll see. I am working at it. It hasn’t been nice, however right this moment was good.”

Duke chipped in from behind the 18th inexperienced to shut out his spherical of 67.

The group at 69 included defending champion Jerry Kelly, who’s coming off his second straight victory in Wisconsin.

The putter grip Stricker used Thursday was the identical one he had when he received the Chubb Traditional earlier this yr in Florida. After which he went to one thing else, typical of most gamers, though on this case he mentioned his placing was nonetheless not nice that week.

“I gave it one other probability,” he mentioned.

Stricker for years used the identical putter throughout his finest run on the PGA Tour. Now he is tinkering, even experimenting with the arm-lock methodology utilized by the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Kuchar.

He isn’t prepared for that simply but.

“I am a left dominant-sided putter, left arm putter, so even the arm lock feels good to me, however that is one other stage,” he mentioned. “So I have been going the opposite method and placing this grip on and that feels fairly good.”

Beginning on the again 9 in windy situations, Stricker hit 6-iron to 4 toes on the eleventh gap, adopted together with his bunker shot on the twelfth after which hit a lob wedge to 4 toes on the par-5 sixteenth, holed a 20-foot birdie on the seventeenth and knocked it in from 10 toes behind the outlet at No. 18.

Solely seven gamers broke par on the South Course, that beforehand hosted a World Golf Championship.

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