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Skinner in Top 25 after 1st round of Senior PGA Championship

Albany golf pro Sonny Skinner enters today's Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla having just finished second in the Georgia Senior PGA Championship last weekend.

Albany golf pro Sonny Skinner enters today's Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla having just finished second in the Georgia Senior PGA Championship last weekend.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- At one point during the first round of the Senior PGA Championship on Thursday, an unfamiliar name sat tied for second overall at 4-under.

That name was Sonny Skinner.

Skinner, a teaching pro at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, scorched the front nine of the famed Valhalla Golf Club course Thursday, then struggled some on the back as he settled for a Day 1 score of even par, which was good for a tie for 22nd.

"It was a good start," Skinner said by phone late Thursday night. "I hit a lot of good shots on the front nine and some bad ones on the back. But I'm pleased (where I am)."

Japan's Kiyoshi Murota surprised even himself by shooting a 6-under 66 on Thursday to overshadow stars such as Mark O'Meara and Tom Watson and grab the first-round lead.

After a 90-minute delay at the start of the round and a later suspension of play that lasted more than 3 hours, half the field was still on the course when darkness fell. Those 78 players will hit Valhalla Golf Club early to day to complete the first round.

Murota had a one-shot edge on alternate Trevor Dodds, with former Masters and British Open winner O'Meara another stroke back after a 68. Watson, an eight-time major champion, shot a 70.

Skinner, who was supposed to tee off Thursday at 9:20 a.m., saw his start get delayed by an hour and a half by storms, then he played five holes -- shooting 2-under through five, thanks to an eagle on No. 2 -- before action was halted again due to severe weather approaching the area. He returned to finish out the front nine with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9 and make the turn at 4-under.

But then his round ran into some trouble. He bogeyed Nos. 10, 14, 15 and 17 to erase all the good he'd done in the early part of the first Champions Tour major of the year -- which also marked Skinner's third career shot at a major title after playing in the 2008 and 2010 PGA Tour Championships.

"I was feeling good after that front nine, but I had a few miscues on the back half and didn't make a single birdie," Skinner lamented. "I had a chance to birdie Nos. 11 and 18 and mis-hit my third shot each time. I still hit a lot of good shots and I need to keep thinking positively."

Skinner's second round -- due to all the delays -- won't tee off until 7:05 p.m. today.

That's right -- 7:05 p.m. is not a misprint.

"That's a late tee time, for sure," he said. "All the guys who didn't finish their rounds (Thursday) have to come back (today), and then my tee time originally was supposed to be 2:50 p.m., but that was pushed back because of all the weather. I'll probably get an hour and a half in (before play is called due to darkness)."

Skinner added he won't change much between Thursday and today.

"The course is long and demanding, but the greens are still surprisingly fast, and I think I adapted well," he said. "I just have to come back (today) and execute. That's the key. Just execute. But, yeah, so far it's been a pretty good start."