Bob Charles, using a new putter, shot a 7-under 65 Friday and took a three-stroke lead in the opening round of the Senior PGA Nationwide Championship at The Golf Club of Georgia.
Bruce Crampton, Don Bies, John Jacobs and defending champion Bob Murphy were tied at 68.The 60-year-old Charles made eight birdies and one bogey in his best round this year, including a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-4 5th and a 60-foot birdie putt on the par-4 14th.
Charles said the round has increased his confidence that was tested at the Las Vegas Senior Classic. He and Dave Stockton were defeated by Jim Colbert on the fourth playoff hole in that event.
"I don't have to worry about making the cut or making a check at the end of the week," he said. After Las Vegas, Charles said his confidence, on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 3. Now it's about a 7 or 8.
Using the new putter, Charles said, was one of the keys to his success. To finish his round, he drained a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th
"It was incredibly good," he said of his Bullseye putter. "I have a great ability to read a green, but I have a hard time starting it on line. If I could find a secret, I'd putt much better."
Charles also began using a new driver and sand wedge, but abandoned the graphite driver after a couple of "horrible" shots.
Murphy, who shot a 13-under 203 here last year, said he had his chances to do well early but was happy with his play.
"I had two birdie putts on the first and second holes and I missed them," he said. "It turned out to be a good round."
As the defending champion, Murphy said there is an obvious incentive to try to start out well.
"We'd all like to repeat, but its a hard thing to do," he said. "I'm off to a good start."
Murphy said he has been battling arthritis in his hip and said the pain affected his play.
"It tends to get worse as the day goes on," he said. "I've been very lucky."