COLIN Montgomerie made a flawless start to sit one shot off the clubhouse lead in the Senior Players Championship in Massachusetts – his first outing since landing a third over-50s major last month.
The eight-times European No 1 fired a three-under-par 68 at Belmont Country Club, signing for birdies at the seventh, 12th and 14th as he maintained the confidence that came with a successful defence of the Senior PGA Championship.
Although he was among the morning starters, it was an effort that looked set to put him within touching distance of the lead as the clubhouse pace was set by American trio Rocco Mediate, Lee Janzen and Guy Boros with matching 67s.
Montgomerie is in the middle of a run of five straight majors, heading to Chambers Bay next week for the US Open then on to Sacramento the week after that for the US Senior Open.
In another major, Montgomerie’s compatriot, Catriona Matthew, recovered well from a shaky start in the opening round of the KPMG Women’s LPGA Championship at Westchester, New York.
The Scottish No 1 dropped three shots in a row from the second before repairing the majority of that damage with a spectacular eagle-2 at the tenth, which she followed with a birdie at the 15th to finish with a level-par 73. It was three shots off a logjam for the clubhouse lead that included Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson.
Elsewhere, East Lothian-based DJ Russell finished the opening day of the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship close to the lead at Close House, near Newcastle.
Russell, who designed the two courses at Archerfield Links, carded a two-under-par 69 to sit one behind fellow Englishmen Carl Mason and Gary Emerson as well as Australian Peter Fowler and Frenchman Jean Pierre Salat.
Carnoustie’s Fraser Mann, winner of the Senior PGA Professional Championship at Foxhills in Surrey last month, fared best of the Scots with a 72 to sit in a share of 24th spot.
On the Challenge Tour, Fifer Peter Whiteford is sitting joint-seventh after a four-under-par 68 in the opening round of the KPMG Trophy in Belgium, where Denmark’s Jeff Winther made a flying start to set the pace with a 65.
Whiteford finished birdie-birdie to sit one ahead of fellow Scot Paul Doherty.