Triplett first-round leader at Sanford International

Battling the gusty winds was a top priority on Friday

Kirk Triplett shot a 4-under 66 on Friday at Minnehaha Country Club and will take a one-stroke lead into Saturday’s second round at the Sanford International presented by Cambria.

Normally shooting a 66 would hint that conditions were ideal for this PGA Tour Champions event but that was far from the case on a windy and warm day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Triplett, one of the Champions Tour’s top players since becoming eligible in 2012, is up by one over Paul Broadhurst and Tom Gillis with two rounds remaining.

“It’s the exact same conditions we had on Tuesday except the course is a touch firmer,” said Triplett, who credited a 30-foot putt for par on No. 13 as giving him the opportunity to leave Friday’s round with the overall lead. “It was 20-miles-an-hour out of the south with some gusts. So we had some really hard holes but some other holes that played easy, as well.”

Putting better

Triplett has one win to his credit this season, taking the Hoag Classic in Newport Beach, Calif., in March. He’s not particularly confident with the driver these days, but the layout of Minnehaha afforded him the opportunity to avoid using it on several par-4s.

“I was really happy to see the putter turn around over the last couple months,” he said. “I haven’t been making as many as I was making, but I was making a lot at the start of the year. So it all kind of evens out if you keep going at it.”

Broadhurst, an Englishman with five Champions Tour wins in his four seasons, interpreted the conditions in much the same way.

“Three guys teeing off we all hit the same club,” Broadhurst said. “One can go long, one can go on the green and one can be short. It just depends on how you catch the gust of wind.”

Triplett wants a good show

There were opportunities to enjoy the conditions as well, though not as many of them.

“Today I learned that I can hit a drive 400 yards,” Gillis said with a smile on his face. “I’ve never done that so that’s what I learned today.  On the seventh hole it was like ‘Wow, I just drove it 400 yards. That’s pretty cool.'”

At least a few golfers caught those gusts better than the others on the first day. A Friday crowd that celebrated this year’s dry weather still had to put up with wind.

“I think you can tell that people are excited about this tournament,” Triplett said. “I mean, we had awful weather last year and they came out in droves to watch. And they’re very excited — you can tell that out there today. … Just hope we can give them a good show. I think they’re happy to have us here and we’re very happy to be here.”

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