PALM HARBOR — In last year's inaugural LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship, Innisbrook's Island Course gave the players fits. Only winner Sherri Steinhauer finished the 36-hole tournament under par.
In Saturday's opening round of this year's event, players treated the course more like a municipal pitch-and-putt. Leading the way was Rosie Jones, who shot 5-under 67 to take a two-shot lead over tour rookie Michele Redman into today's final round.
Barb Moxness was three shots back, and Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon were four back.
Nine players were within six shots of Jones, including Alicia Dibos and Shelley Hamlin, who shot par 72.
"I've been playing well,'' said Jones, who has three career wins on the tour for players 45 and older to go with her 13 LPGA Tour wins.
"If I can keep that putter going, then things will turn out nice. I left some out there. There were some 10-footers that I didn't make. You get some you don't expect that are nice little bonuses, and then you leave some out there.''
Jones, 51, had six birdies to go with one bogey. She made the turn at 3 under. The bogey was on the par-3 14th, but Jones had three more birdies on the back nine.
"For me, it's all about hitting fairways and greens,'' she said. "Except for a few shots, I was able to do that.''
Jones plays with Redman in today's final group. Unlike Jones, Redman, 45, still plays on the LPGA Tour. This year she played in 15 tournaments. In her last tournament, the LPGA Challenge that ended Oct. 17, she finished tied for third. She said her game is in pretty good shape right now.
"I started playing pretty good about a month ago on tour,'' Redman said. "I just carried it over out here. The key is to just make good decisions. I only had to chip once during the whole round. It was a pretty good day.''
Perhaps the biggest unknown on the leaderboard is Moxness. She retired from the LPGA Tour in 1986 and hadn't played in any Legends events this year. She has played in 18 Legends events in all and has one win. She spends her summers as a teaching pro at Wayzata Country Club in suburban Minneapolis, then winters with her sister in Stuart.
"The thing about playing these events is that you play them so seldom that you actually work harder,'' Moxness said. "You have to find that natural point where you just go play rather than being mechanical. I was able to feel fairly natural out there.''
But no player cruised through the Island Course better than Jones. The Solheim Cup captain for 2011 finished tied for sixth at 5 over in this tournament last year.
For her Legends career, she has played in 10 events and finished in the top 10 eight times. This year she played in two other of the tour's six tournaments and finished in the top 10 both times.
The spotlight isn't nearly as bright on the senior circuit, but Jones said she will have to fight nerves nonetheless.
"I've already had the butterflies,'' Jones said. "I get nervous. We still get nervous out there. If you don't have the butterflies, then you don't care.''