Gilder leads assault at 64

Watson, Pohl two shots behind

19 others are within five of lead

Constellation Energy Classic

Through Sunday - Hayfields Country Club - TV: Golf Channel, 1:30-4 p.m.

September 17, 2005|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Bob Gilder wants to be distinguished for something other than his perfect attendance record on the Champions Tour this season.

Tom Watson, whose status as one of golf's all-time greats was secure decades ago, is among the men stalking him in the Constellation Energy Classic.

Gilder tied the course record with an 8-under-par 64 yesterday, showing the way in a first round in which 53 of the 78 players were at par or better on the welcoming greens of Hayfields Country Club.

Watson birdied Nos. 16 and 18 for a 66. He hit 17 greens in regulation. Dan Pohl, who hit all but one fairway, joined him at 6-under.

John Bland, John Jacobs, Hajime Meshiai, Larry Nelson and D.A. Weibring had 5-under 67s. The six at 68 included Curtis Strange, Jim Colbert and former baseball All-Star Rick Rhoden. The gang of eight at 69 included colorful CBS analyst Gary McCord.

The final threesome for today's second round is a mixed bag.

Pohl is a Champions Tour rookie who won twice on the PGA Tour in 1986, but never again. Watson won eight majors.

Gilder?

He won six times on the PGA Tour and seven on the Champions Tour, but has only two top-10s this season and last finished atop a leader board in April 2003 in the Emerald Coast Classic. He has to go back to a closing 63 there to find a better round than the one he put up yesterday.

Gilder, 54, had no bogeys and eight birdies, but none on the par-5s, which left him perplexed. He scrambled his way around the front nine, where he needed just eight putts, and said it was the best he's felt with a flat stick in his hands since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

"For the first time since about 1980," Gilder said, "it really felt like I could hit good putts every time."

Like many men his vintage, Gilder has fought the yips. He went to a reverse grip before he joined the Champions Tour in 2000, but abandoned it for what he called "a modified claw" after the first round of the Bayer Advantage in early June.

Gilder is one of three players who haven't missed a Champions Tour event this season.

"I get 24 weeks off," Gilder said. "Why not work the other 28? Wouldn't you like a job like that?"

Over seven weeks from June to August, he played six events. On his free weekend, Gilder took his wife, Peggy, to Paris.

That led into the Senior British Open, where Watson showed that some things never change by beating Des Smyth in a playoff. Watson won five British Opens between 1975 and '83.

Watson, who turned 56 on Sept. 4, is making his 12th appearance on the Champions Tour this season.

Like Gilder, Watson played bogey-free yesterday, but found plenty of adventure on the par-5s. He saved par after taking a drop on No. 5, and barely averted a two-stroke penalty on No. 16.

"Donna Caponi [of the Golf Channel] saved me about three strokes," Watson said. "I almost hit the wrong ball. She caught it just before I got ready to hit. Turns out my ball was about 20 yards in front."

The threesome of Bland, Pohl and Strange were a combined 15-under, but the most popular grouping with the gallery featured Watson and Lee Trevino, whose back problems and surgery had kept him idle since January.

"I always play well with Lee," Watson said, "and today was no exception."

After he made a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18, Watson broke into a satisfied smile. Trevino, 65, three-putted for a double bogey and an 80 that has him dead last.

Larry Ziegler, the other man in the group, finished with a 76, but, remember, this is the stop and smell the roses tour.

Ziegler: "We need a forecaddy."

Trevino: "I need some rest."

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