Couples leads Senior Players

Fred Couples will take a one shot lead into the weekend at the Senior Players Championship in New York.

Fred Couples has taken a one shot lead after the second round of the final, over-50s major of the year, the Senior Players Championship, at Westchester Country Club’s West Course in New York.

Playing in his first tournament following some “extremely helpful” non-traditional treatment in Germany for a back problem that has troubled him for many years, the 50-year-old, sweet-swinging US Presidents Cup captain went out and shot a 5-under 66 on Friday that took his halfway total to an 8-under 134 and edged him into a one shot lead over Australian Peter Senior.

Former US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin was a shot further back at 6-under, John Cook at 5-under with overnight leader Jeff Sluman, Mark O’Meara and Morris Hatalsky at 4-under making up what would have been an all-American Top Five but for Senior.

Indeed US dominated the scoreboard, with Senior, Ireland’s former Zimbabwean Mark McNulty (11th), current Zimbabwean Nick Price (18th) Namibia’s Trevor Dodds (24th) South Africa’s David Frost (31st) and Germany’ legend Bernhard Langer (40th) being the only off-shore raiders in the top 50.

And with McNulty six off the pace and Price seven shots back, not too many of them outside of Senior were strongly positioned to catch the front runners – and Couples especially,

The second round leader was in a confident frame of mind after a round that saw him average 286.0 yards with his driver, find 86% of the greens in regulation and average 1.64 putts per green in his bid to win his fifth Champions Tour event.

He said: “I drove the ball very well. I didn’t make many mistakes. I don’t want to say I left any out there. I did miss a couple but I made a few too, so it was a good day.”

Couples seemed headed for a really low round on Friday when he posted four birdies on the front nine, but then he stumbled with a bogey at 12 before he managed to rescue the round with birdies on the 13th and 15th holes, where he nailed putts of 15 and eight feet.

“To be in contention is good for me, but to go out Saturday and kind of get the feeling of having to hit a good shot here, make a good putt there or get it up and down was really good,” Couples added, “So I’m in good spirits about the way I’m feeling and playing.”

Senior trailed Couples for most of the round, but was anything but pessimistic about his chances.

The Aussie said: “It’s always good to be in a position like this. I’ve had some opportunities this year and hopefully one weekend I’m going to come through.

“We’ve got a lot of good players up at the top so it’s going to be a good weekend.”

Pavin finished below par for the 18th time in 19 rounds, hitting the fairway with all 14 of his drives, one of which set him up for a birdie at the 14th following bogeys on the previous two holes, but he could just not reel-in Couples.

“I played well when I’ve been around the lead,” said Pavin, who has yet to win a Champions Tour event.

“It’s just that someone has always played a little bit better.”

Sluman was unable to duplicate his impressive first round of 65, when he was the only player to birdie the 12th, 13th and 14th holes. On Friday he finished without a birdie and instead bogeyed the ninth and 16th holes for a two-over 73.