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Bernhard Langer & Robin Freeman lead with opening 66s

Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer took advantage of an early tee time to shoot 6-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead at the 71st PGA Senior Championship.

Robin Freeman also was in and out before the winds whipped up and dried the greens, also shooting a 66.

Tom Lehman was the notable exception among the leaders, teeing off in the afternoon and carding a 68 to sit two shots back, along with Brad Bryant. Lehman was at 5-under but bogeyed the last.

Making his Senior PGA Championship debut at age 51, Freeman harkened back to his wind-swept days on Oklahoma before he turned pro in 1982.

“I can hit it low if I have to. But it’s kind of funny that a lot of times you want to hit the ball up in the air here, just so it will carry the right distance,” he said. “The spin is very important coming off the irons here, into the wind, even downwind, because if you don’t spin the ball correctly the wind will knock it down or balloon it or whatever.

Germany’s Langer also thrived, describing himself as “a pretty decent wind player.”

“The really good wind players say they always curve it into the wind,” Langer said. “I don’t always do that. But that’s a better way to stop the ball on the greens. So, if you have right-to-left wind, you slice it into the wind and the ball comes down softer than letting it hook.”

Langer was 5-under through six holes thanks to an eagle on No. 14, where he pitched in from 103 yards with a sand wedge on the par-4, 322-yard hole.

“I had 13 holes to go and I had to play them whether I made eagle there or birdie or par,” Langer said. “But, yeah, it’s nice to get under, in the red numbers, get under par early and take it from there. It’s certainly better than being a couple over.”

Neither Freeman nor Langer was excited about grabbing a share of the 18-hole lead because they’ll be teeing off in the afternoon Friday, when the winds are again expected to keep scores in the black.

The winds on Thursday kept shifting, which left many golfers guessing.

“You get on the greens and the wind’s wiggling you around, the ball feels like it’s going to roll all the time and you got all the undulation you’re working with, and it’s just a challenge,” said Jay Don Blake, who shot a 71. “And then trying to figure out, you’re uphill shooting shots, downwind, into the wind. I mean, it’s so hard to pick the clubs.”

Ben Crenshaw, who fired a 72 on the course he co-designed, said he was worried about the weather.

“I hope it doesn’t get any more than this,” he said. “I know it’s forecast as not good tomorrow and I’m worried about that. If you get any more wind and the greens get keen and the ball starts blowing around, then you’re worried about disruption of play. … They put a good amount of water on the greens and they dried out pretty good today.”

Scores

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