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Thursday’s roundup: McCarron eagles 18, shares lead

Associated Press

Birmingham, Ala. — Scott McCarron delivered another finishing eagle with the lead on the line.

McCarron eagled the par-5 18th hole for a 7-under 65 and a share of the opening-round lead Thursday in the Regions Tradition, the first of the PGA Tour Champions’ five majors.

Lee Janzen, Jeff Sluman and Miguel Angel Jimenez joined McCarron atop the leaderboard at Greystone.

McCarron, seeking his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory, had a big finish.

“I called bank shot out there from 245 (yards) and just one-hopped the back of the grandstands in there about 3 1/2 feet and was able to curl that one in,” he said.

His eagle on the 54th hole at the Allianz Championship in February turned a one-stroke deficit into a win.

Janzen had a run of six birdies and a bogey from holes 10-17 while Sluman and Jimenez closed with birdies on the 526-yard par 5.

“It’s a hole you’ve got to take advantage of, you’ve got to make birdie,” McCarron said. “If you can get it close and make eagle, it’s a good thing, and it always feels good to finish with an eagle.”

Both Sluman and Jimenez mustered four-hole birdie streaks during their rounds.

Kenny Perry, the 2014 winner, was a stroke back along with David Frost, Fred Funk, Scott Parel, Marco Dawson and Tommy Armour III. Frost won four years ago.

Perry had an eagle on No. 15.

The four-way tie for the lead is the largest on tour since eight players shared the lead after 18 holes at the 2015 Senior British Championship.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 69. John Daly, coming off a victory in the Insperity Invitational, shot a 71.

The 1998 U.S. Open champion, Janzen is seeking his second PGA Tour Champions victory after winning the ACE Group Classic in 2015.

“I hit the ball really well,” he said. “You know, there’s two parts of the game, you figure out what you want to do and what shot you want to hit, and then the hard part is actually doing it. So when the ball actually goes where you want it to go and does exactly what you want it to do more than a few times during a round, it just makes for a better day.

“It’s hard not to shoot a good score when you’ve got that kind of control, when the ball’s landing the distance you want, you’re keeping it below the hole and playing it on the proper side of the hole and proper side of the fairway all day long.”

Sluman, who won the 1988 PGA Championship, had four birdies on both the front and back nines with just one bogey marring the round.

Jimenez, a Spaniard with four PGA Tour Champions wins and 21 international victories, wasn’t surprised by the crowd at 65.

“Well, the golf course is generous, right?” he said. “If you hit a good shot, the golf course allows you to make birdie. It’s in superb condition.”

PGA Tour

At Irving, Texas, James Hahn birdied the final hole for a 6-under 64 and a share of the first-round lead with Ricky Barnes in the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Matt Kuchar, Jhonattan Vegas, Jason Kokrak and Cameron Tringale shot 66, and top-ranked Dustin Johnson topped the group at 67, a stroke ahead of fourth-ranked Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, the No. 6 player competing in his hometown event.

Masters and defending Nelson champion Sergio Garcia had three bogeys on the front nine and just one birdie in a 73 that left him tied for 93rd.

Brooks Koepka, who lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole at the TPC Four Seasons a year ago, joined Johnson and five others at 67.

Brian Stuard (Jackson) is at 1-over 71 and Ryan Brehm (Michigan State) is at 3-over 73.

LPGA Tour

At Williamsburg, Virginia, Lexi Thompson had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch and finished with a 6-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Kingsmill Championship.

Playing her third tournament since losing the ANA Inspiration in a playoff after being penalized four strokes for a rules violation that a TV viewer spotted, Thompson had a one-stroke lead over U.S. Solheim Cup teammates Gerina Piller and Brittany Lincicome and young American Angel Yin.

Thompson played her opening nine in even par with a birdie on No. 11 and a bogey on No. 17, then birdied No. 1 and Nos. 3-7 on Kingsmill Resort’s River Course.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko was two strokes back at 67 along with Sarah Jane Smith and Giulia Molinaro. Defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 72.