Four tied for NCGA Senior Championship lead
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (April 12, 2012) -- After the first round of the Senior Championship Dave Baskins, Herb Jensen, Jim Knoll and Rich Morrison lead the field posting 1-under 71s. Jensen, Knoll and Morrison were able to take advantage of their opportunities as each of them made five birdies on their rounds, while Baskins made four. Morrison, who was the first to post a 71, took advantage of calm conditions along the opening five seaside holes by making birdies on No. 2 and No. 4. “There was no wind the first six holes, so that was huge. I had birdie putts on the first five holes,” said Morrison. “If you can play the first five holes at Spy with no wind, it makes a huge difference.”

Knoll had similar thoughts on the weather conditions early in the round, which allowed him to shoot a 33 on the front. “Our first eight to 10 holes it was perfect, there was hardly any wind at all,” said Knoll. However, as the day went on the wind picked up and players like Knoll were happy to just make it through the round. “Conditions were more difficult as the day went on because the wind got stronger and stronger,” he said.

Baskins round was benefited by taking advantage of the four par fives as he birdied each of them. In fact after his birdie at the 14th hole he found himself at 3-under par. Unfortunately he got himself in trouble on the long par-4 16th and walked away with a double-bogey.

Jensen’s five birdies came on 4, 11, 12, 14 and 18. Last year Jensen struggled at this event finishing in a tie for 30th, however it was not too long ago that Jensen found himself in contention for a Senior title. In 2009, Jensen finished alone in third after posting the low-round of the final day. If he can match his final round play like he did that year, he could very well find himself in a favorable spot on the leaderboard.

Morrison doesn’t know what to expect tomorrow as he will be competing in the final group, he knows he has a tough assignment ahead with regular contenders lurking around the corner. “[My chances] all depend on guys like Burda and Knoll and whoever else is up there on the leaderboard,” he said. “I’m just going to try and play the best as I can.”

Knoll will defend his title and try to become the first back-to-back winner in nearly two decades and is happy to go into tomorrow tied for the lead. “I feel good about the position I’m in,” he said. His win last year saw him come from four shots off the first round lead putting him in the third to last group, this year he will be in the last group. “It will be a different feeling, but I’m sure I will know who I’m playing with,” he said, referring to the relationship he has with other top senior players.

Others right there in the hunt include Michael Brannan and Ken Noonan who shot level-par 72s. Brannan, who finished in a tie for second last year, knows he has given himself a good shot to become the new NCGA Senior champion and feels fortunate to be in contention. “I got away with my mistakes today and that doesn’t happen a lot out here,” he said. “Tomorrow I’m going to be needing to hit the ball a little bit better and make sure I make short putts.” Noonan described his round as “steady” as he had three pars and three bogeys and 12 pars on the day. “I think I need to do just more of the same as I did today,” explained Noonan. “I think if you hit the ball solid you put yourself in good shape to win.”

Still not out of it is two-time winner Jeff Burda, who posted a 1-over 73. “I played pretty steady golf, nothing spectacular,” he said with an exception to the 13th hole, which he scored a double-bogey on. Tied with Burda at 73 is Doug Johnson who tied for 11th at last year’s championship.

Also in the hunt are Casey Boyns, Stephen Hakes and Mark Miller at 2-over par. Hakes round included four birdies and six bogeys, with all his birdies coming on the par 5s. Miller matched co-leaders Jensen, Knoll and Morrison with five birdies on the day, but the three-time Senior Player of the Year was hindered by a triple-bogey on the second hole. Boyns explained his game as “in a little bit of a funk right now” and was disappointed to see the way his round ended as he three-putted the 18th hole from seven feet away. He played the last five holes three-over par, but he knows he still has a chance tomorrow. “It’s hard to say what score will win it, but I think something around even-par will [win it],” he said.

Boyns might be right. Other players like Knoll, Burda and Brannan shared similar thoughts that the winning score would be around 144. However, the winning score at Spyglass the last three years has never been that low as the champion has shot 149, 146 and 146. Tomorrow we’ll find out just what the winning score will be.

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First played in 1962, the NCGA Senior Championship is the association’s premier event for players aged 55 and over. The championship will be 54-holes of stroke play (18 holes per day). After 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 30 individuals and ties. Pre- qualifying required for non-exempt players. Players must have a handicap index of 7.4 or less.

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