SNOQUALMIE — On a day of soaring temperatures and plummeting scores, Washington native Kirk Triplett and 2016 U.S. Senior Open champion Gene Sauers were the co-leaders after Friday’s opening round of the Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
Thirty-six of the 81 players in the 50-and-over PGA Tour Champions field conquered par at this Jack Nicklaus-designed course, with Triplett and Sauers leading the way after matching 7-under-par 65s. Triplett totaled 10 birdies to go with a bogey and a double-bogey for a share of the lead, and Sauers capped his round by sinking a 65-foot chip for an eagle on the 18th green.
Triplett, who was born in Moses Lake and graduated from Pullman High School in 1980, shrugged off an early bogey on No. 11 (he started his round on the 10th hole) with birdies on the next five holes and another on No. 18. His double-bogey came on the third hole, but he then ran off another four straight birdies.
The 54-year-old Triplett, who lives today in Scottsdale, Ariz., credited his short irons, and particularly his wedges, for his lowest score in relation to par this season. “I just hit a lot of shots that found a way to get close to the hole,” said Triplett, whose 10 birdie putts included just one outside of 10 feet.
Since leaving high school, Triplett has played sparingly in Washington. He played twice in the state amateur in his college years at Nevada Reno, but not again until the 1998 PGA Championship at Redmond’s Sahalee Country Club. He also played in the 2002 NEC Invitational at Sahalee CC before making his first appearance in the Boeing Classic in 2012.
A win this week “would be very special,” Triplett acknowledged.
The 54-year-old Sauers, who got his first PGA Tour Champions victory at the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago, called his Friday round “ a good one. I’ve been working on that chip shot, too, so that paid off (on the final hole). … It was a solid day.”
Stephen Ames, who lives in Vancouver, B.C., was tied for third with Duffy Waldorf, both at 6-under 66.
With temperatures reaching the low 90s, the scoreboard leaders were bunched throughout the day. At one point midway through the round there were 23 players either tied for the lead at 3 under par or within one shot at 2 under. Later seven players were knotted in first place at 5 under.
“The greens are quite receptive,” said David Frost, one of five players tied for fifth at 5 under. “I remember last year the greens were a lot harder than they are this year, so I think that’s why the scores are a little lower this year. But the golf course is in great shape. The fairways are beautiful and the greens are really nice. It’s just a pleasure to come play here.”
PGA Tour Champions money leader Bernhard Langer, the 2010 Boeing Classic winner and the runner-up a year ago, is one of seven players tied for 12th at 3-under 69.
PGA Tour Champions newcomer John Daly, a winner of two major championships in his career, was one of 10 players tied for 27th at 1-under 71.
Defending Boeing Classic champion Billy Andrade has a lot of work to do if he hopes to repeat. Andrade is one of 10 players tied for 55th at 2-over 74.
Minutes before the first tee shots were hit on Friday, there was a traditional flyover of a Boeing jet, this one a Korean Air 747. … Hal Sutton, winner of the 1983 PGA Championship, withdrew after a first-round 82, citing a sore back. … Doug Garwood, who is tied for 12th at 3-under 69, has a remarkable string of 270 consecutive holes without a three-putt. … The long drive of the day belonged to Brandt Jobe, who had a booming 377-yard tee shot on the downhill par-5 15th hole.