Jenkins steals some of Palmer's spotlight

Associated Press
Friday, July 21

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The day's largest gallery came to follow Arnold Palmer and, in the process, got to see defending champion Tom Jenkins take the lead in the Instinet Classic.

Jenkins, grouped with Palmer and Jay Sigel, shot a course-record 7-under 65 on Friday at the TPC at Jasna Polana to take a two-stroke lead over Jerry McGee, Gil Morgan and Jim Ferree.

 Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer was honored Friday prior to starting play in his 1,000th career PGA event.

Palmer, 70, began his 1,000th official PGA Tour-Senior PGA Tour event with a 1-under 71.

Jenkins broke the course record of 67, set by Bill Whaley of Cromwell, Conn.

Jenkins won his only senior championship in a playoff with Jim Thorpe last year, when the tournament was the Bell-Atlantic Classic and played at Hartefeld National in Avondale, Pa. Jenkins is trying to become the first player to defend his title in the 16-year history of the event.

Jenkins played his round with Palmer's autograph on the brim of his cap and applauded like a fan whenever Palmer made a difficult shot. While acknowledging that the large gallery was there for Palmer, Jenkins used it to fuel his own game.

"You know there's going to be a lot of attention out there, so it helps you get focused easier on what you have to do," said Jenkins, who had five of his eight birdies on the front nine. "We let Arnold go ahead and get his due and we brought up the rear. But it certainly helps get the adrenaline started and I'm basically an adrenaline type player."

Jenkins, who had only one bogey, has had a hectic two weeks. The 52-year-old player and his wife, Martha, had their first son on July 4.

"I haven't had much sleep," said Jenkins, who has a daughter from a previous marriage. "But that probably helped me get prepared this week to defend my title because I haven't had much time to think about it."

Palmer gave the huge gallery a thrill when he holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the first hole. He followed with two bogeys and a birdie, and after parring No. 5 he joked with the crowd, saying "What do you know, I got a par."

Palmer had three birdies, including the final hole.

McGee celebrated his 57th birthday with a 67. After shooting 67 in the first round of the Senior Players Championship last week, McGee had three straight rounds over par. It was indicative of his problems since undergoing surgery for throat and tongue cancer on March 24, 1999.

"I have not been playing consistently ever since the cancer," said McGee, who won four events on the regular tour but has yet to win since joining the senior tour in 1993.

"It's been extremely frustrating to me that I feel good one day and play OK, and the next day I feel like I've been in a marathon. I guess it beats the alternative.

McGee underwent eight weeks of radiation and lost 44 pounds as his weight dropped to 138 pounds.

Morgan, who finished one stroke behind Jenkins and Thorpe last year, had six birdies. Ferree, who won the tournament in 1991, received a sponsor exemption and took advantage in shooting his 67.

"The folks here were kind enough to give me a sponsors exemption, and fortunately I haven't embarrassed them yet," said Ferree, who shot two strokes below his age. "I had a real good day. I missed two fairways and two greens, and putted pretty well."

Larry Ziegler, Jim Colbert, Bob Murphy and Jim Dent opened with 68s.
Instinet Classic first-round scores

Instinet Classic breakdown