Kite, Thorpe, Bryant, Hatalsky tied for lead
Thorpe called the 7,120-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed course "generous" in the first round and it appears ready to yield plenty of high scores this weekend -- especially to the longer hitters.
"The scores are going to be pretty good," said Dan Pohl, one of several golfers within striking distance after his 4-under 68. "You could attack, and you have to take advantage of the par-5s."
The seniors staged their first event in the Seattle area since the GTE Northwest Classic, which ran from 1986-95. In the final year, tournament champion Walter Morgan won $90,000; This weekend's winner gets $240,000.
Bryant and Hatalsky each collected six birdies on the back nine, with Bryant surging into a share of the lead with birdies on the final two holes.
Hatalsky switched back this week to a mallot-style putter he'd abandoned about a month earlier. His experiment with a bladed putter didn't lead to a measurable improvement.
"I was just struggling a little bit with the first putter, and I was blaming the putter more than myself," he admitted. "That's always a good out."
Hatalsky has earned a reputation as one of the game's best putters, and he demonstrated it by logging six birdies on the back nine.
"It happened quickly. It was fun. Occasionally, I get it going," he said.
He was at even-par at the turn, then found his rhythm. And few of his putts were gimmes -- he connected from 23 feet on No. 13, from 14 feet on No. 14 and made a pair of 12-footers on the 16th and 17th.
"I was out of sync on the front side, then I made a really nice putt on No. 10," he said. "From there, I starting making a lot of nice putts."
Thorpe, meanwhile, finished with two birdies over the final four holes and tied for the lead with an eagle on No. 18, a par-5, 498-yard finale. After his drive, he hit a 4-wood to within 14 feet and made the putt.
"From No. 11 on, I hit the ball very well," Thorpe said. "I felt my iron game was very good today, and then I hit two very good shots at No. 18."
He said the course was firm under Friday's clear skies and played shorter than during a Pro-Am earlier in the week, encouraging aggressive play.
"The weather was perfect," Thorpe said. "I like this golf course. The greens are loaded. ... We know we can make birdies out there."
Thorpe, who won events in Texas and Florida on consecutive weekends earlier this season, donated $250,000 to his church after the first win and joked that his game has been steady since then.
"There's nothing wrong with giving," Thorpe said, smiling.
Kite had eight birdies but also bogeyed two holes -- mistakes he called "unforced errors" on Nos. 3 and 17. But he also had a nice birdie on No. 18 after an embedded ball prompted a drop.
Another three feet on Kite's approach, and he probably would have had a 5-foot eagle putt for the lead. Instead, he survived a tricky lie when his drop stopped just above a greenside bunker.
"You practice bunker shots, but you don't practice that shot," he said. "I wasn't even close to grounding my club. I stayed well away. It was hanging by one little thread of rye grass."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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