Three sectional qualifiers stuck their noses in the middle of things Thursday morning in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open.
Jimmy Carter, Jeff Hart and P.H. Horgan II each shot 3-under-par 67 to trail leader Tom Watson by one shot at Del Paso Country Club.
There’s a long way to go, starting with Thursday afternoon’s sauna bath, but they made journeymen everywhere proud on Day 1.
“I’ve been expecting to play well for quite some time, but I just haven’t been able to put it together,” Carter said. “I’m really excited on the inside. I’m trying not to be too excited.”
All three spent time on the PGA Tour. Carter, 54, is the most accomplished with 11 full seasons and a career-best 48th on the money list in 2000.
Hart, 55, had one top 10 in 181 PGA starts, but he’s found his stride on the Champions Tour the past three years with more than $1 million in earnings.
He’s qualified for every Senior Open since he became eligible six years ago, including a 14th-place finish in 2013. Del Paso’s 6,853-yard length is a challenge for the self-described short-but-accurate driver, but the Solana Beach resident is persevering.
“If you’re going to get this course, you’d better get it the first 12 holes because the last six are tough,” he said. He layed up on his second shot on Nos. 16 and 18, long par-4s with forced carries, but parred both holes by getting up-and-down from about 90 yards at each.
“I’ll probably lay up even if I’m in the fairway (off the tee on 475-yard No. 16 all week),” Hart said.
Horgan, 54, is a former football player at the University of Rhode Island who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla.
He has 13 top 10s in 276 PGA Tour starts but didn’t crack the top 100 in earnings in seven seasons. He does have three Web.com Tour wins and an affinity for heat, dry or otherwise, that should suit him well.
“I actually like it when it’s warm for all my ailments to stay kind of loose,” he said. “Granted, it’s hot. It’s abnormally hot. But I prefer it hot.”
Carter, from Scottsdale, Ariz., had the rare bogey-free round.
“I spent most of the day in the fairway, which is nice,” he said. “The couple of times I got in the rough, I was able to get it around the green where I could save some pars.”
The fun is only beginning, Hart said.
“It was about as easy, I think, as we’ll see.”
Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526