They witnessed a ball-striking exhibition from Montgomery. His round included eight birdies against two bogeys. Twice he put together runs of three straight birdies.
Montgomerie’s round began on the 10th hole. He sank birdie putts at Nos. 14 and 15 and chipped in for another at No. 16 to get to 3 under. A similar run on Nos. 6, 7 and 8 put him at 6 under.
Dawson was two groups ahead of Montgomerie and playing in near anonymity.
Dawson spent 21 years on the PGA Tour, but only amassed 18 top-10 finishes in his career.
Even getting a spot in the U.S. Senior Open was a chore. He earned an alternate spot in sectional qualifying, but didn’t get a spot in the 156-player field until last week.
But Montgomerie and Dawson shared a common trait on Thursday. They both hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens.
“You’re always going to be on the offensive when you’re driving the ball in the fairway,” Dawson said. “If you’re in the rough all the time you’re always playing defense. So, it really helps to drive the ball well.”
That was getting harder to do at the day went on.
Bernhard Langer, the two-time Masters champion, and Kirk Triplett both wrapped up the penning round at 2 under and are four shots off Montgomerie’s pace.
The leaderboard could look dramatically different when they return to the course today. Montgomerie doesn’t expect to still be on top when he returns to the first tee box at 1:52 p.m. today.
“The guys that are going out now will play now and then tomorrow morning, so I don’t expect to have the lead when I tee off tomorrow afternoon,” Montgomerie said. “So it’s a matter of being patient and trying to play somewhere near the way I did today. It will be difficult. I’m not denying that. It will be a struggle. It’s going to be 100 degrees the next three days, and it’s going to be difficult, no denying. But at the same time the rewards are great enough to warrant that. So I look forward to it.”