Marco Dawson and Kevin Sutherland each fired a 7-under 65 in the first round of the Rapiscan Systems Classic on Friday to lead the field in the PGA Tour Champions’ 10th annual trip to Fallen Oak Golf Club.
Dawson and Sutherland, both in the top 10 of the Schwab Cup Money Rankings, hold a three-stroke lead over the star-studded field, which includes former Rapiscan Classic champions Fred Couples, Steve Stricker, Michael Allen, Jeff Maggert and David Frost.
Sutherland said he was happy with his play on Friday, and that he hopes to continue his strong play into the weekend.
“I made a bunch of good putts today,” Sutherland said. “It was nice to roll the ball well… I was really happy with how I just played. This whole week I’ve been kind of not hitting the ball how I’ve wanted to, but it all came together today, so it’s good.”
Both Sutherland and Dawson said the greens were fast but rolled true, and Dawson said the quick greens worked in his favor.
“In the past, I’ve struggled on the greens with the speed and this year I made a point to try and just hit a bunch of long putts,” Dawson said. “Practiced my putting trying to get the speed right and my speed was terrific. I made more putts today than I have in any round in the last three years.”
Scott Parel, Jeff Sluman, Tom Byrum and Tommy Armour III each shot a 68 and are tied for third heading into the weekend. Parel and Armour each kept a clean scorecard, playing a bogey-free round with four birdies apiece.
Vijay Singh shot a 3-under 69 to finish the day tied for seventh with Couples, Kent Jones and Scott Hoch.
Other notables in the field include last year’s champion, Steve Stricker, who is currently tied for 46th at 1-over, World Golf Hall-of-Famers Singh and Colin Montgomerie (-2, T11), and Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer (-1, T15).
Dawson and Sutherland each said they had played poorly in the week leading up to the tournament. A solid opening round seems to have put their struggles behind them, but each said that the next two rounds will determine more than Friday’s.
“The key is, there’s so much golf to play,” Sutherland said. “Who’s leading after the first day or second doesn’t really matter. Someone’s going to shoot some good scores tomorrow, so just want to hopefully be one of them.”
The Rapiscan Systems Classic will continue through Sunday at Fallen Oak Golf Club in Saucier, Mississippi.