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Thursday, July 6, 2006
Updated: July 7, 8:03 AM ET
Haas, Barr tied for U.S. Senior Open lead

Associated Press

HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Jay Haas and Dave Barr played early, which helped them play well.

Teeing off Thursday morning well ahead of most of their nearest pursuers, Haas and Barr took advantage of light winds and soft greens and each fired a 3-under 67 to share the first-round lead in the U.S. Senior Open.

As expected, the heavy rough and roly-poly greens proved tough on the over-50 field, especially in the afternoon when winds increased and tightened the short-but-narrow Prairie Dunes course.

"At times it blew a little bit on certain holes," said Haas, who won the Senior PGA this year and is shooting for his second straight senior major title. "It kind of kicked up. But on the difficult holes it seemed like it was mostly helping, or not really too bad. We heard horror stories here if it goes to 20, 25 [mph]. So we're pretty fortunate today and I'm thrilled to death to get in with 3-under-par."

One stroke behind the leaders at 68 were D.A. Weibring and three international golfers -- Massy Kuramoto of Japan, Graham Marsh of Australia and Mark James of England.

Defending champion Allen Doyle had trouble with the 5-inch rough on a couple of holes and was one stroke further back along with Bruce Lietzke, Lonnie Nielsen and Bruce Summerhays.

Doyle, whose closing-round 63 gave him the U.S. Senior Open championship last year, had a double-bogey on the par-4 eighth after hitting into rough which Barr described as "like a wire brush."

Haas, who beat Brad Bryant on the third playoff hole for the Senior PGA Championship this year, sank an 8-foot putt to salvage bogey on the par-3 fourth after encountering rough.

"I got away with a couple of bad shots," said Haas, a three-time winner this year.

Then he birdied the next three holes.

"Just those three key putts right in there, that was my round right there, I think."

Haas also bogeyed the 452-yard ninth, which had a particularly difficult pin placement on the undulating green, but finished with birdies on No. 11 and 17.

His second shot on the par-5 17th, a 5-wood, rolled onto the green. He two-putted from there.

"My putt had like 15 feet of break. If I would have missed the left low, it would have gone down probably 15 feet below the hole," he said. "And if I would have gone the other way, it would have missed 10 feet to the right. So I rolled it down to about a foot and a half. That one was maybe the best shot of the day I hit."

Barr, not even among the list of top 100 money-winners this year which Haas heads, had four birdies and one bogey in his best round in five Senior Opens.

"I just happened to keep it in play most of the day," Barr said. "I think I only missed two fairways. You just kind of take what the course gives you, or what the wind gives you."

Doyle, who had five birdies, knew he might have been better off with an early tee time.

"We started to get some hard greens," he said. "I don't know what it was like this morning, obviously. I'm sure they were softer. But they really started to firm up this afternoon and the ball started to run out."

But he was a fan of the Prairie Dunes layout.

"It's kind of nice to get to a place where you've really got to think on every shot."

A group of nine at even-par 70 included Dana Quigley and crowd favorite Tom Watson.

Quigley, who shot a 9-under-par 63 in the closing round to win last week's Greater Kansas City Golf Classic, eagled the par-5 seventh hole but then double-bogeyed the tough eighth.

Kansas City native Watson, as he always does, drew the biggest gallery in his home state.

"A 70 is a good score on this golf course," Watson said. "It's fun playing in front of your home crowd. I just hope to do well and make a few more birdies than I did today."