BETHESDA -- The usual trademark of success in championships is accuracy to fairways and greens, and this was certainly the case in the first round of the 16th Senior Open at Congressional Country Club yesterday.
With the exception of co-leader Larry Ringer, who was in another zone, missing eight greens and converting 12 one-putts for 68, the other chief contenders were in a fairways-greens routine.
Co-leader J.C. Snead, whose 68 was produced off a 2 p.m. starting time (as opposed to Ringer's 7:20 a.m.), missed one fairway and reached every green in regulation. In the process, he had five birdies and a bogey.
Of the six at 69, Australian Graham Marsh (tied for second last year) missed one fairway and hit every green, Englishman Brian Barnes missed one fairway and one green and Tom Weiskopf (second two years ago and tied for fourth last year) went through 15 holes without a mistake, then missed the fairway and green at Nos. 16 and 18.
Of the others, Bob Murphy, whose arthritis had him in pain Wednesday, called himself "very lucky" after four birdies and a bogey, and Larry Laoretti (four birdies, one bogey) said he was driving the ball well and felt confident, which he said also described him during his victorious run in 1992.
And Dave Stockton (four birdies, one bogey), winner of the PGA Championship here in 1976, used a 30-minute mental session with sports psychologist Deborah Graham Wednesday as the springboard to his round.
"I had been distraught with the way I was driving the ball, but today I was mentally ready -- focused and unfazed by a couple of mistakes."
The least known of the top eight players is probably Barnes, more familiar for his play in Europe than in the United States. A recent Senior arrival in this country, he is trying to do now and in the future what he might possibly have done in the 1970s and 1980s.
As a teen-ager, he was one of the top juniors in his native England, and he joined the European PGA Tour at age 20. Four years later, he came to this country to try the PGA Tour, qualified, then lasted only 10 tournaments in 1970 before returning home.
"I had a young family, and elected to stay in Europe," Barnes said.
Barnes, who turned 50 the same day as Hale Irwin (June 3), wasted little time in getting reintroduced to American golf. He is between Monday qualifiers and sponsor exemptions for admission to Senior Tour events.
He finished tied for 65th in Nashville and for fourth in Dallas, collecting some $28,500 -- more than twice as much as in six European events earlier in the year. He qualified for this championship with a medal-sharing 72 in Boynton Beach, Fla.
Over the years, Barnes has won 16 tournaments in Europe, Africa and Australia, but it's been said he had the potential to win many more.
Any regrets about not having done better over the years? "None at all," Barnes said. "It is all in the past. It was a heck of a life, though. Now, this is the second bite of the cherry."
In addition to Ringer, Middle Atlantic scorers included David Oakley, Vienna, Va., 37-40 -- 77; amateurs Peter Jacobi, Arlington, Va., 38-42 -- 80, and Jack Vardaman, Washington, 42-40 -- 82; Roanoke (Va.) pro Billy King, 39-46 -- 85; and an ailing Mike McGinnis (back injury), Ijamsville and Holly Hills CC, 42-46 -- 88.