Triplett’s 62 ties US Senior Open record
PEABODY, Mass. — The witch on her broomstick that graces the Salem Country Club logo could hardly concoct a spell so scary as the blood-red scoreboard from the first round of the U.S. Senior Open.
On a day that saw 40 players break par, Kirk Triplett matched the PGA Champions Tour major record with an 8-under 62 on Thursday to take a one-stroke leader over Olin Browne. The last time the Senior Open was played at the Donald Ross course, in 2011, winner Bruce Fleischer finished at even par.
But Triplett said goodbye to the black numbers on his first hole, rose to the top of the leaderboard after making the turn and then climbed to 8 under when he holed out a 9-iron from 120 yards on the 341-yard, par-4 fourth hole (his 13th of the day).
“I think it was getting a little spooky there, that part,” Triplett said as he sat just miles from the site of the Colonial witch trials that made Salem famous. “Today I just got some momentum. At one point during the round, I said, ‘OK, this is your day. Grab it. Go.’”
Two weeks after Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open at Erin Hills at a record-tying 16 under, the senior set took aim at another docile USGA setup on a windless course softened by rains.
Loren Roberts is the only other player to shoot a 62 in the tournament, setting the record in 2006 at Prairie Dunes in Kansas. Triplett is the 10th player to shoot 62 in a senior major — including Browne, who did it at the Senior Players Championship in 2012 and missed it by one stroke Thursday.
“Even though there’s some red numbers on the board, if you got overly aggressive and you missed on the wrong side, you were cooked,” said Browne, the 2011 Senior Open champion. “The greens were receptive and the wind was down today, so the ball was going where we started it. But if you didn’t hit good shots, you’re going to pay a real penalty out here.”
Doug Garwood was third at 6 under on the 6,815-yardcourse. Paul Goydos, who made the turn at 5 under to take an early lead but bogeyed his final hole, was at 65 along with Tom Lehman, Kenny Perry, Jerry Smith, Barry Lane and Duffy Waldorf.
The 55-year-old Triplett has five victories on the 50-and-over tour after winning three times on the PGA Tour. By the time he arrived at the course for his 1:58 p.m. tee time, there were already a handful of players in the clubhouse at 5-under.
Triplett birdied four of his first six holes, hitting his 3-iron on the par-3 15th 20 feet past the hole but “I just rolled that right in the jar.”
“My partners are looking at me, ‘OK, all right. It’s going to be that kind of day,’” he said.
He missed a 10-footer for birdie on the final hole for the record.
Instead, he matched it.
“Do they pay you for that?” he said with a smile. “It’s Thursday night, and there’s a whole bunch of guys that are really close. So I’m more about the tournament than about the individual rounds accomplishment. I just feel great to be in the thick of it.”
After winning the first two senior majors this year, Bernhard Langer shot a 67 and was tied for 13th. Fred Couples, who won last week in Madison, Wisconsin, was at 68. Defending Senior Open champion Gene Sauers had a 73.
Waldorf had a hole-in-one on the 149-yard third hole.
Goydos and Browne each shot 30 on the back nine.
“Thirty is usually a six- or seven-hole score for me this year,” said Goydos, who shot 59 in 2010 in the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour. “You’re going to think about the last hole for a few minutes. … It might put a little taint on my sandwich, yeah, but that’s the mentality of who we are.”