Crowded at the Top of U.S. Senior Open

On a hot day in the Midwest, several players managed to overcome a tough golf course to rise to the top of the leaderboard in the 34th U.S. Senior Open. The fourth of five majors this season on the Champions Tour began Thursday at the par-70 Omaha Country Club in Nebraska.

Sharing the lead after 18 holes with 3-under 67s are Jay Don Blake, Michael Allen, Kenny Perry, Gary Hallberg, Tom Lehman, Mark O'Meara and Fred Funk. One stroke back are Taiwan's Chien Soon Lu, Australia's Peter Senior, Germany's Bernhard Langer and American Rocco Mediate.

Perry, who won his first major on any tour two weeks ago in the Senior Players Championship, was feeling the affects of surgery on his left knee earlier in the year. "It's not hitting a golf ball," said the 52-year-old Kentuckian, who carded five birdies and a pair of bogeys.

"It don't bother me hitting a golf shot. It's just the walk on a steep incline down, and there's quite a few of those this week. But I managed it okay. So we'll take some Tylenol and keep on trucking."

Blake said his performance was aided by competing in last month's U.S. Open. "It helped a lot," said Blake, who missed the cut at Merion with rounds of 74 and 80. "I lost my patience out there. I was trying to be aggressive instead of just executing one shot at a time and trying to play my game. I learned a lot."

Sharing 12th after 69s are Americans Jeff Brehaut, Steve Lowery, Jeff Sluman, Kevin Coombs and Corey Pavin, along with Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, Argentina's Eduardo Romero and Japan's Kohki Idoki. Idoki, who in his first tournament in the U.S. won the Senior PGA Championship in May, had three birdies and two bogeys. Montgomerie is a rookie on the Champions Tour.

Another dozen players shot even-par 70s. Other scores included a 1-over 71 by Fred Couples. Defending U.S. Senior Open champion Roger Chapman of England opened with a 74.

The low amateur score was a 72 recorded by Sean Knapp.

Peter Jacobsen, the 2004 U.S. Senior Open champion, withdrew after completing nine holes due to heat-related illness. The Portland, Ore., native was treated by paramedics but didn't require additional medical care. Also pulling out after the first round were 1997 U.S. Senior Open champion Graham Marsh (hip injury) and Jerry Pate (medical condition).

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