By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ST. LOUIS - There's just something a little funny about a 50-year-old being a full-fledged rookie. But that's exactly what Duffy Waldorf is, as 2013 is his first full season as a member of the Champions Tour.
After the first round of the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, the relative rookie doubled as the grizzled veteran he is with a 5-under 66 at Bellerive to grab a share of the first-round lead with Jay Haas.
"It's a lot better than the last time I was a rookie I can tell you that, because I feel like I have about 25 years of experience of playing tournament golf," Waldorf said after his six-birdie, one-bogey round. "But it's nice. This is the best tour to be a rookie on, I think. Usually you're an experienced player, you can be healthier, you can be maybe more fit, you can be longer, I mean there's a lot of positives. I've been playing a bit on the Web.com and regular tour the last couple years and certainly it's good preparation for this tour."
Playing the back nine first, Waldorf picked up birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 16. No. 16, in particular, proved to be a key to the round. Waldorf hit his tee shot on the 232-yard par 3 into a greenside bunker just short and left.
"I hit a 4-iron, came up just short into the bunker on the left and it's a pretty tough bunker shot," he said. "I had a lot of green to work with, but you're down low and you're blind and I hit a nice shot."
It wasn't just nice... it was in for an unlikely but much welcomed birdie.
"I didn't get to see it go in, but it's always nice when you get that crowd reaction and even my caddie was happy, so that's always good," Waldorf said.
After making the turn, Waldorf birdied the 522-yard, par-4 fourth hole to get to 4 under, but quickly gave the shot back on No. 5 with a bogey at the 468-yard par 4 after an errant tee shot got him in some trouble.
Waldorf bounced back with birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 with putts inside of six feet and parred No. 9 to close out the 66.
It seems the only problem he had on Thursday was a mysterious cut on his right hand that happened just before he teed off.
"I don't know how I did it," he said. "It was just a little scrape. I was reaching in to get something like a pencil or tees at the first tee box or No. 10. I started on 10. And I didn't even feel it hardly and then it was all of a sudden it was like, oh, just a slow little drip. My daughter could do a little makeup for a horror movie."
The cut also led to a rather funny - though almost not funny for Waldorf - situation on the eighth green. Being extra cautious so not to get any blood on his khaki pants, Waldorf gingerly reached into his right pants pocket all day for tees and his ball marker.
On the eighth green, though, he unintentionally emptied his pocket all over the place.
"I pretty much emptied all the contents of my pocket on to the green," Waldorf said. "I've been obsessed with not getting my pants bloody. So I've kind of been half digging in there, so I just dig in with my fingers and don't get my hand in there. I think I have been pulling up the pocket slowly and that time I just reached in with a finger and pulled up and the whole pocket came with me. So I'm very glad that it didn't roll on top of my actual mark, because it was kind of like, mark, and then they all fell like right behind. So at least I had a good idea which one my mark was."
In his days on the PGA Tour - which aren't over, by the way - Waldorf had four victories. One of his three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour was a tie for ninth at the 1992 PGA Championship, which also happened to be right here at Bellerive.
So far, Waldorf has been a man of many tours in 2013. He finished 64th in late April at the Web.com Tour's South Georgia Classic; has played three times on the PGA Tour, including a tie for 48th at last week's HP Byron Nelson Championship; and had six starts on the Champions Tour prior to this week with his top finish being a tie for fifth at the Greater Gwinnett Championship.
"The golf courses can be a little different," Waldorf said. "We tend to play a little bit shorter course out here. So I feel like you tend to have more birdie holes. Sometimes you get courses on the Tour, pins are set hard, the conditions can be hard and you're like, it's hard to make a birdie. And you feel like it does tend to favor the longer hitter a bit on both those tours.
"Web.com, sometimes they're (courses) hard but, a lot of times they're not hard, it's almost the other thing, they're quite easy and then you got shoot 4 or 5 under every day or you got to be at 20 under par," he said. "Totally different kind of situation where you really need to just go low, low, low and that's a different style of golf and like the PGA Tour, I think is one style and Web.com is one style and out here on the Champions Tour, any style works, really."
On Thursday, Waldorf's style worked exceptionally well.
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