Bryant matches Tradition record with 62
SUNRIVER — Fred Funk was finished with his round at the Jeld-Wen Tradition when a nearby radio squawked with the news that Brad Bryant had just shot a 10-under 62.
"OK. Game is on," Funk said. "We know who we're chasing now."
Bryant matched a tournament record with his first-round play at Crosswater Golf Club in central Oregon. He had 11 birdies and one bogey for a three-shot lead Thursday in the fourth of five majors this year on the Champions Tour.
"Just played really great," he said. "Definitely one of my top five ball-striking rounds in my life."
Bryant's best finish this year was fourth at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in June. He has four overall tour victories, his last coming at the Senior U.S. Open in 2007.
Loren Roberts shot a 65, while Tom Watson and Tom Lehman each had 67s as temperatures hovered in the upper 90s on the scenic 7,533-yard course in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor.
Defending champion Funk was in a group at 4 under. Tour money leader Bernhard Langer shot a 71.
Even Bryant was stunned by his low round, which matched Watson's low second round in 2003 when the tournament was played in Aloha, and Doug Tewell's final-round 62 in 2001, when the event was in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Bryant joked that he wants to keep everything exactly the same for the next three days.
"I hope nothing changes. I don't even want to change my socks or my underwear," he said.
Bryant's personal best round was 63, when he won the Walt Disney World-Oldsmobile Classic in 1995, his only victory on the PGA Tour.
"Ten under?" Roberts mused. "I just can't believe how good that is."
Roberts, who has won twice on the tour this year, had five birdies and an eagle on the par-4, 410-yard 10th hole. Roberts won the Tradition 2005.
Watson, who won the Tradition in 2003, fell to Stewart Cink in a dramatic playoff at the British Open a month ago.
"It was a pretty benign day," Watson said. "Not a lot of wind to deal with. The flags were accessible."
However, the altitude and heat did play a role when it came to distance: "That ball can get out there, it can go," he said.
Fan favorite Greg Norman withdrew shortly before the first round because of back spasms. It would have been the Shark's first appearance in the event and sixth start on the tour this year.
Funk was coming off a victory at the U.S. Senior Open, where he became the first player in a USGA championship to finish at 20-under par. A week earlier, he lost in a three-way playoff at the Senior British Open.
He has finished in the top 10 in the previous three Champions Tour majors this season and leads the Charles Schwab Cup points standings.
"That's my goal this year, to win the Charles Schwab Cup. I really want it," Funk said.
Funk shot a final-round 3-under 69 in the Tradition last year for a three-shot victory over Mike Goodes and his first win in a major on the tour.
This year, his first round featured four birdies.
The Tradition started at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale in 1989 before it moved to Superstition Mountain for a year in 2002.
With the help of Oregon native Peter Jacobsen, the event moved again in 2003 to the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club west of Portland. In 2007, it came to Crosswater. Last year steamy temperatures gave way to a delay because of lightning during the final round.
The Tradition is sponsored by Jeld-Wen, an Oregon-based window and door manufacturer.