Couples shares AT&T lead
Fred Couples surprised himself when he finished the first round of the AT&T Championship in a first-place tie.
Fred Couples surprised himself, more than anyone else, when he finished the first round of the AT&T Championship in a first round tie with fellow American Steve Lowery.
His dodgy back had been playing up again and together with a bout of flu earlier in the week, it had restricted him to just one pro-am round on the TPC San Antonio’s Canyons Course in Texas, the new home of the AT&T Championship.
But any misgivings he might have felt and the “little bit edgy” feeling he had when he teed off were soon brushed aside when, in near perfect condition in just a light breeze, he went out and matched Lowery’s sizzling 7-under 65.
The leading duo will go into Saturday’s second round of this 54-hole, over-50s Champions Tour event a shot ahead of fellow American Hal Sutton and Zimbabwe’s Nick Price.
Taiwan’s Chien Soon Lu and 2003 Valero Texas Open champion Tommy Armour III, a third generation descendant of famed Scot Tommy Armour, are a further shot back at 67.
Bernard Langer, who was four shots off the pace after opening with a 69, was the highest place European in the stellar 78 man field.
“There wasn’t much wind, but it makes you take a deep breath and figure it out,” said Couples who will soon be heading for Australia where he is to captain the USA in their Presidents Cup battle with Greg Norman’s Internationals.
“I’m sure, including myself, that there were a lot of players playing out of the dirt, rocks and long grass on a few of the holes.”
There were some, yes, but not as many as was expected. Without the wind, TPC San Antonia lacked its toughest teeth and was relatively defenceless against a field that included 29 of the 30 current tournament winners on the Champions Tour.
Sutton’s classy round, which saw him hit every green in regulation, was topped only by Couples, who posted his lowest round on tour this year, and Lowery, who recorded the shot of the day when he holed an 8-iron from 168 yards out on statistically the toughest hole of the day, the par-4 14th.
Couples was playing a third straight tournament for the first time this year, thanks to taking time off to undergo an experimental procedure in Germany on his troublesome back in June.
And a couple of lucky breaks helped him enjoy Friday a lot more than he had expected, notably at the par-5 12th when he pulled his drive left.
The ball hit a rock and bounced right back into the fairway. From 250 yards out, he found a front bunker, blasted out to with 6 feet of the pin and made the birdie putt.
“If it hits the other side of the rock and goes in the other direction, I guess I’m down in the 11th fairway,” recalled Couples, who had earlier nailed a 30-foot par putt he thought he would never get on the par-3 eighth.
“And if it stays in the rocks, I’m sure I’m hacking it out and hoping to be lucky and make par.
“Little jumps like that are big moves.”
In his case into top spot on the first day.
TOP 10 LEADERBOARD
(USA unless stated, par 72):
65 Steve Lowery, Fred Couples
66 Nick Price, Hal Sutton
67 Chien-Soon Lu (to), Tommy Armour III
68 Gil Morgan, Russ Cochran, Scott Hoch, Bobby Clampett, Phil Blackmar, Steve Pate, Mark Calcavecchia, Loren Roberts, John Huston, Eduardo Romero (Arg)
Solid start for Sungjae Im at Sanderson Farms Championship: Can he land a second PGA Tour title?
The Korean posted a first round of 67 at the Country Club of Jackson as he made his 2021/22 seasonal bow.
Tyrrell Hatton shrugs off Ryder Cup disappointment to earn share of Dunhill lead
The 29-year-old is looking to win the event for a third time.
Shane Lowry fully focused on 2023 Ryder Cup despite getting ‘dog’s abuse’ in US
Lowry won one point from three matches on his Ryder Cup debut.
On this day in 2002: Europe beat the United States in the Ryder Cup
The hosts won 15½-12½ at The Belfry.
What Europe need to do to avoid further Ryder Cup embarrassment in Italy in 2023
Dustin Johnson became the first American since Larry Nelson in 1981 to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the 19-9 rout at Whistling Straits.
Lee Westwood would be ‘honoured’ by Ryder Cup captaincy but hopes to play again
The 48-year-old won his singles match against Harris English in a lost cause at Whistling Straits.
Ian Poulter says Europe’s youngsters can make them a Ryder Cup force again
The Englishman played in his seventh event at Whistling Straits.
USA’s raft of young stars target dominant Ryder Cup era
FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay was one of six rookies on the victorious US side.
Padraig Harrington upbeat about European team’s future despite record defeat
The United States ran out 19-9 victors at Whistling Straits.
Jordan Spieth already anticipating Ryder Cup triumph in Europe in 2023
The home side cruised to a 19-9 success at Whistling Straits.