Course record sends Couples soaring

Fred Couples demolished the rest of the field with a course-record 62 at the AT&T Championship on Saturday.

Fred Couples demolished the rest of the field with a course-record 62 at the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship on Saturday.

The soon-to-be American Presidents Cup captain lies on 17 under par, seven strokes clear after round two at the Canyons Course in San Antonio, Texas – helped by a run of six birdies in his opening seven holes.

Couples had 12 birdies in all, six on each nine. But for a double-bogey at the par-3 fourth when he pushed his tee shot and dumped a chip into a bunker, it could have been an even more spectacular showing.

As it stands, however, it will still take something incredible from one of his competitors to prevent him from picking up his second Champions Tour title come Sunday’s final round, after he won the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship back in August.

Couples’ seven-stroke cushion is the biggest 36-hole leading margin on the 50-and-over Tour since 1998 when Isao Aoki, Hale Irwin and Larry Nelson each led events by eight shots.

He also broke the tournament record of 130 set by Mark McNulty back in 2004, while his 62 tied the event record set by Gil Morgan in 2004 and equalled by John Harris in 2005.

“It was just a lot of birdies, which you need to do, though I don’t think you need to get 12 of them,” said Couples.

“You don’t get leads like this very often.

“I thought after the double bogey that I wasn’t going to let that get to me,” he added.

“I don’t remember having any really good rounds with a double, but most of the time today I put my iron shots where I had nice, flat putts.”

Couples’ closest pursuer is Mark Calcavecchia, who was alone in second after a bogey-free 66 which included a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th.

“Odds are we’ve identified this year’s champion,” said Calcavecchia. “I don’t see Fred having a bad day.”

Calcavecchia has a lot to play for, even if he can’t catch the leader on Sunday – he lies in second place behind Tom Lehman in the Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup, and is trying to catch him this week.

The top 30 after this event will move to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in San Francisco in early November.

Nick Price (69) lies in third at 9 under, while Scott Simpson is a further shot back after a 67 alongside John Cook (67), Tom Lehman (67) and Peter Senior (67).