Couples in position to defend title
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | June 30,2012
PITTSBURGH — The heat is on at the Senior Players Championship.
Fred Couples is taking advantage of it.
With sweltering temperatures easing the stiffness in his chronically bad back, the defending champion birdied the final three holes Friday for a 7-under 63 and the second-round lead at Fox Chapel.
Couples, the winner last year at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., reached 11 under on a day when the temperature reached 96 degrees with a heat index of 105.
“The heat helps,” said Couples, the 1992 Masters champion. “I have some heat on my back to start the day, and then being hot and humid certainly was a good thing.”
Couples has complained about stiffness all week, saying his back is sore after receiving his regular anti-inflammatory injections two weeks ago. His game hasn’t shown it. Couples has one bogey through two rounds, has birdied the two par-5 holes both days and has hit 34 of 36 greens.
He birdied four of the first six holes and closed the same way, with birdies at 13, 16, 17 and 18.
“It was a great day full of a lot of good shots, but a couple long putts were made,” Couples said. “Any time you’re going to shoot a low round on a course that I think is like this, you’re going to have to do that.”
He won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in March for his seventh victory on the 50-and-over tour.
Joe Daley was a stroke back after a 64. He leads the field with 16 birdies during the tournament thus far.
Dating to his previous start at the Senior PGA Championship in May, Daley is a combined 22 under in his past four rounds. He finished 66-64 (12 under) at the Senior PGA Championship to climb into a tie for fourth.
“Why not?” Daley said when asked if he went into the tournament thinking there were that many birdie opportunities available. “Why limit yourself? You have to have the right mindset.”
Tom Lehman, the Regions Tradition winner in his last start, was third at 7 under after a 66. He extended his streak of consecutive rounds in the 60s to 10.
Mark Calcavecchia, coming off a victory Sunday in the Montreal Championship, was 6 under along with Bill Glasson, Michael Allen and Jay Don Blake. Calcavecchia and Blake shot 65, Glasson had a 67, and Allen a 68.
Olin Browne had a tournament-record 62 to reach 5 under. After putting 35 times in opening with a 73 Thursday, the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion drove to nearby Oakmont Country Club to work on his putting. Oakmont will host its record ninth U.S. Open in 2016.
At AT&T National
BETHESDA, Md. — Hunter Mahan finally got a good score to match a flawless swing.
In temperatures that topped 100 degrees, Mahan ran off seven birdies Friday afternoon for a 6-under 65 in the AT&T National. It was the best score of the week at Congressional, and it gave him a two-shot lead over Robert Garrigus, Jimmy Walker and Brendon De Jonge.
Tiger Woods got back in the mix with a 68 in the morning, though Mahan made his weekend task a little tougher. Mahan made birdies on two of the last three holes to reach 7-under 135, leaving Woods five shots behind.