Frost trails at Senior Open
Southport - Gene Sauers shot to the top of the Senior Open leaderboard at Royal Birkdale on Thursday, just three years after battling a potentially fatal skin condition.
Sauers wasn't sure if he would ever pick up a golf club again back in 2010 when he was faced with the horror illness.
Sauers was initially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2009 but it was a series of medications he was prescribed that caused the dangerous Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, triggering his skin to start burning from inside-out.
Yet the American, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, was able to return to action and the 50-year-old marked his maiden Senior Open appearance with an impressive display in breezy conditions.
Sauers' three under par 67 ensured he would end the opening day one shot clear of 2010 champion Bernhard Langer, who was on two under along with David Frost of South Africa, Australian Peter Senior and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.
"This is a second chance," said Sauers as he recalled his dramatic health battle.
"Both arms, both legs were burned up. After Duke University diagnosed me, I spent seven weeks in hospital, had seven lots of skin grafts and it was torture.
"I tell you, I don't want anybody to go through that. I'm blessed and I'm glad to be here."
Defending champion Fred Couples struggled to a four over par 74 while Senior Open debutant Colin Montgomerie went two better to finish the day five shots off the lead.LEADING FIRST-ROUND SCORES
67 – Gene Sauers
68 – Frankie Minoza, David Frost
, Bernhard Langer, Peter Senior
69 – Gary Hallberg, John Cook, Corey Pavin, Jeff Hart, Peter Fowler
70 – Tom Pernice Jnr, Mark McNulty, Sandy Lyle, Greg Turner, Mark Wiebe, Steve Pate, Philip Walton, Massy Kuramoto, Paul Wesselingh, Tom Kite, Rocco Mediate, Gary Wolstenholme
71 – John Inman, Katsuyoshi Lutz (Am), Chip, Tomori, Chien Lu Kohki Soon, Idoki, Russ Cochran, Jeff Sluman, José Rivero, Rod Spittle, Steen Tinning, Gary Trivisonno, Jay Blake Larry Don, Mize, Mike Goodes
72 – Miguel Angel Martin, Bob Cameron, Steve Elkington, Bart Bryant, Andrew Sherborne, Dick Mast, Santiago Luna, David J David, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Lehman
73 – Chris Williams
, Tom Watson
74 – Fred Couples, Mark O'Meara
75 – Mark Calcavecchia
76 – Ian Woosnam, Hendrik Buhrmann