BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Billy Andrade, Timothy O'Neal and Paul Broadhurst each shot a 5-under 67 to take the first-round lead Thursday at the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors, with defending champion Steve Stricker one shot back.
Joining Stricker at 68 were Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Ken Duke. Stricker has thrived on the Founders Course at Greystone, with two wins and two runner-up finishes in his last four appearances.
Bernhard Langer was two shots back after a 69 that included a rare burst of frustration from the even-keeled German. After missing a short birdie putt on the par-5 13th, Langer threw his long putter and then heaved his ball into the trees.
The 65-year-old Langer shares the PGA Tour Champions record of 45 victories with Hale Irwin. His 11 senior majors include two wins in Birmingham.
O’Neal started on the 10th hole and had a pair of eagles on the par-5 18th and second holes, with one of his two bogeys in between. He made eagle putts of about 5 and 12 feet.
“I was finally able to start making some putts and hopefully I can continue doing that,” O'Neal said.
The 50-year-old is seeking his first win on the senior tour. He’s coming off his best finish, tying for 10th at last week's Mitsubishi Electric Classic. O’Neal earned his card through qualifying school last fall.
Andrade had a bogey-free round, recording three straight birdies before hitting the flagstick with his approach on No. 16. The ball bounced well back but stayed on the green.
“I made a minor adjustment in my stance and I started getting the ball going where I wanted it to go,” Andrade said. “I hit some nice shots where they weren’t long putts ... so all in all I had a great day.”
He called over an official after his approach was buried in the sand on the 18th hole, wanting to make a point that “in a lot of the faces of these bunkers it's almost too soft.”
“When I hit the second shot and it was in the air and I knew it was going in the bunker, I was thinking, great, it’s not going to be a hard bunker shot, but please don’t be buried,” Andrade said. "Then I got up there and I could barely see the ball.
"When a pro can’t get the ball out of the bunker, I swung as hard as I possibly could, and I was just lucky to get the ball out of its buried lie. I just wanted to show our guys what was going on and how bad it was so maybe they can fix it down the road."
Andrade saved par and is seeking his fourth win on the senior circuit, with the previous three all coming in 2015. Those included the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Broadhurst has two senior major titles, the 2016 Senior British Open and 2018 Senior PGA Championship. He had seven birdies and two bogeys.
David Toms, who trails only Stricker in the Schwab Cup standings, withdrew with an illness. Toms and Stephen Ames are the only players with multiple wins this year. Ames, the winner last week at TPC Sugarloaf in Georgia, opened with a 70.
Harrington wiped out his only bogey with a closing birdie. Duke made a double bogey on the par-4 third hole but started a run of three straight birdies on No. 13. Els had only one bogey.