Hensby three behind Senior PGA leaders

Mark Hensby has opened with a four-under 67 to be among the chasing groups at the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbour.

The Australian posted eight birdies in an up-and-down round to finish three behind leaders Steven Alker of New Zealand and Bob Estes.

Despite Hensby’s four bogeys, the Victorian is tied seventh in a group of illustrious names, including Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Hensby is two shots better than compatriot Rod Pampling, with nine Australians in the field altogether at the Harbour Shores Resort.

Peter Fowler, Stephen Leaney and John Senden all shot 70 to be a shot further behind.

Alker and Estes lead Canadian Mike Weir and PGA teaching professional Paul Claxton by one.

Alker, who never played in a PGA Championship in his younger days, eagled his first hole at the PGA Tour Champions’ equivalent major.

He scored an eagle 3 at the par-5 10th hole and cruised through his round with five birdies and just one bogey.

Alker turned 50 less than a year ago and has already racked up three wins since becoming eligible for the senior circuit.

He mentioned he had some “jitters” playing in a group with legends Bernhard Langer and Els.

“If you had said eight, nine months ago that I would be here, I’d probably be tellling you you were lying,” Alker said.

Estes, meanwhile, completed a bogey-free round with five of his seven birdies coming on his second nine.

The four-time PGA Tour winner has a T5 and a T10 at the Senior PGA and is hunting for his first major title.

He birdied the par-5 ninth, his final hole, to match Alker’s score.

“I hit a pretty good drive,” Estes said. “Got it down there far enough where I could maybe get to the front of the green and I had a 5-wood that I hit just a little bit thin and low off of the downslope and it came up just short of the green.

Little chip-and-run with a pitching wedge and pitched it up there, you know, within a foot and tapped in for birdie.”

Defending champion Alex Cejka of Germany shot a three-under 68, as did countryman Langer.

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