Couples and Haas share the lead

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Fred Couples and Jay Haas were tied for the lead after the the first round of the season-ending Charles Schwab Championship.

Fred Couples, US Presidents Cup captain, shared the lead with assistant captain Jay Haas after the first round of the Champions Tour’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Thursday.

Both men shot a 3-under 68s.

Haas, whose son Bill was one of Couples’ wild card picks for the Cup with Tiger Woods, had four birdies and a bogey, while Couples, coming off a victory three weeks ago in San Antonio, had six birdies and three bogeys at San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park, site of the last US Presidents Cup victory in 2009.

South African David Frost and a third American, Michael Allen, were a stroke back while Charles Schwab Cup points leader Tom Lehman matched Kenny Perry and Rod Spittle at 70 to be two of the pace.

For the past few weeks, Couples has been hammered by questions about his decision to include Woods in the American team that will play at Royal Melbourne later this month. The questions didn’t stop at Harding Park.

“In my mind some of it’s very serious and some of it is comical because it just keeps going,” said Couples, who guaranteed Woods a spot weeks before his captain’s picks were due and, according to Woods, also guaranteed him four starts over the three days.

“We have 11 other guys on the team. But it seems like it’s all about Tiger. I’ve picked him and we’ll wait until we get to Australia and we’ll see how he plays.”

Couples, a two-time winner on the over-50s Tour this season, got off to a fast start with birdies on five of the first nine holes and held a two-stroke lead midway through the back nine before finally stumbling in the wet and windy conditions.

He bogeyed the 13th and 14th par 4s and added another at the 17th to fall a stroke behind Haas, but recovered on the 18th with a fine 10-foot birdie putt to regain a share of the lead.

“I didn’t dominate the golf course but I drove it well and I made some of the holes seem easier,” Couples said. “Today (the weather) was not really that bad. It was more of a nuisance.”

Haas, whose only victory this season came at the 3M Championship in Minnesota in late July, played the more consistent golf. His only slip came on the par-3 11th where his tee shot flew over the green when he misjudged the wind’s strength.

“It was a difficult day out there,” Haas said. “Rain is not as bad as rain and wind. It was a two-or three-club turnaround wind basically on most holes.”

The bad weather kept the scores high. Only seven of the 30 players broke par.

Lehman, attempting to become the first man to win player of the year honours on the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and Champions Tour, repeatedly struggled with his approach shots and had only two birdies.

Frost eagled the 525-yard par-5 ninth, then birdied No. 10 to take a share of the early lead at 5 under, but dropped back with bogeys on holes 11, 13 and 14.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

68 Jay Haas, Fred Couples
69 Michael Allen, David Frost (Rsa)
70 Kenny Perry, Rod Spittle (Can), Tom Lehman
71 Bernhard Langer (Ger), Mark Calcavecchia, Joey Sindelar, Peter Senior (Aus), Jay Don Blake, Tom Pernice Jnr.

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