R.W. Eaks overcame a shanked sand wedge on the third hole to shoot a season-best 7-under 65 on Friday for a share of the first-round lead with Gil Morgan in the Champions Tour's Bayer Advantage Classic.
Jim Ahern opened with a 66, and hometown favorite Tom Watson, playing with Jack Nicklaus on a course the Golden Bear designed, was in a group at 67 along with Dana Quigley, Rodger Davis, Don Pohl, Lonnie Nielsen, Gary McCord, Mark McNulty and another Kansas City native, Jim Colbert.
Play was suspended for 1 hour 24 minutes when rain and wind blew through this suburb south of Kansas City, causing several players to finish late. The same storm system on Wednesday night uprooted trees in the area and destroyed the media tent at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.
Nicklaus, 65, who has suggested this could be one of his final tournament appearances on American soil, played with his son, Steve, in the pro-am and finished with a 73. Dismissing the importance of the Champions Tour event, he said playing with Steve was the only reason he was here.
"I always try to do my best, but the reason I came is to spend time with Steve," he said. "A 73, I'm not very happy with. That's not a very exciting score."
Eaks, starting on the back nine, bogeyed the 592-yard par-5 12th hole after shanking his sand wedge.
"I don't think I've shanked a ball in 25 years," Eaks said. "I finally got one out of my system."
Then he made a 17-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th and, one hole later, launched a string of four straight birdies.
After hitting a 5-wood onto the green of the 562-yard par-5 fourth hole, he rolled in a 65-foot putt for an eagle.
Making his round even more improbable was that he had to pull out of a qualifying round for the U.S. Open this week after only three holes.
"I have something I've got to go get taken care of when I get home," he said. "If it works out, then I'll tell you guys what it is."
Watson and Nicklaus received a long, loud ovation from the gallery as they walked up to the 18th green.