The first day of the Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club was close to perfect for both spectators and the golfers they were watching with temps in the 70s accompanying calm conditions.
In addition, and more importantly for the PGA Tour Champions players, rain on Thursday made for an enticing situation on Friday for the strongest field ever to play in this tournament.
Robert Karlsson, a 6-foot-5 53-year-old from Sweden looking for his first PGA Champions Tour victory, tied a Sanford International record with an 8-under 62 to lead the field by a stroke going into Saturday’s second round.
Karlsson was one of 51 golfers who was under par for the day. The leaderboard included eight who were at 6-under or better. Kevin Sutherland, who was playing in the same group as Karlsson, shot a 30 over his final nine holes to finish with a 63, as did defending champion Darren Clarke.
Other prominent players in the mix after one day included Bernhard Langer, former Sanford International winner Rocco Mediate and Ernie Els at 64.
“It’s a fantastic day to play golf,” Karlsson said. “After all the rain yesterday, the greens are quite soft. The course is playing a bit softer as well, which makes it a bit easier to hit the fairways. And no wind around this golf course is quite unusual, so it was definitely there for scoring.”
Karlsson closed his round with three consecutive birdies on 16, 17 and 18 to emerge from a field crowded with rounds in red numbers. All in all it made for a great way to start a week that he’s already enjoying.
“I had a couple of good days here before — a couple of really good pro-am days,” he said. “I really enjoy the people here in Sioux Falls so it’s been great.”
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