Crowded leaderboard looming after day one of Regions Tradition

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HOOVER – Besides one 10-minute rainstorm, the weather was perfect on the opening day of the PGA Tour Champions first major of the season and the players took advantage as four different players shot a 67 to make their way into a tie for first at seven under par as the Regions Tradition got under way at Greystone Golf and Country club on Thursday, May 18.

One of those guys atop the leaderboard is none other than “the most interesting man in golf,” Miguel Angel Jimenez. Jimenez got off to a strong start after making four birdies in a row from the second through the fifth hole. He went out in 32 after picking up a bogey and another birdie to cap off the front nine.

“It was a wonderful day out there,” Jimenez said. “I hit it very solid and did what you need to hit 65, you know. I had a nice start, you know, I started with a nice par on the first hole and then had four birdies in a row.”

Jimenez went on to shoot a three under 33 on the back nine with birdies on 11, 13 and 18. His round could have been much lower, even threatening a 59, had he not missed some putts on the back nine. On 12, 14, 15 and 16, Jimenez had putts within 15 feet and sometimes within 10 feet, but missed a birdie putt on all four of those holes by an inch each time.

“That’s golf,” he said of his missed opportunities. “I always say when you’re under par it’s good, but when you play more under par, it’s more good.”

He went on to grind through and make pars before a nice sand save birdie on the 526-yard par 5 18th to tie for the lead on the final hole.

“The golf course is generous,” Jimenez said after his round. “If you hit a good shot, the golf course will allow you to make birdies. The golf course is in superb condition right now.”

Joining Jimenez in a tie for the lead after round one is Lee Janzen, Jeff Sluman and Scott McCarron as they all had strong starts to the first major of the year. Sluman hit 17 greens in regulation and also had a string of four straight birdies on holes 8-11.

Just one shot back is Kenney Perry at six under, one shot ahead of a host of players at five under including Fred Funk and David Frost at five under.

“Anytime you shoot five under, you feel good, but I think the biggest thing for me today was that I didn’t give anything away,” Funk said.

Funk was one of several to take advantage of the par fives on the back nine birdying all three of those holes, including a closing birdie on the 18th.

“Anytime you have three par fives, that’s birdie opportunities right there, usually,” Funk said after forgetting there were that many on the inward nine.

A total of 46 golfers ended day one under par as the course was very attainable in round one and with great weather looming on Friday, expect the leaders to continue to shoot in the mid to upper 60’s with ease. Defending champion Bernhard Langer is in the mix as well after opening with a three under 69 as he will look to make a move to catch the leaders on Friday.