Langer, Cochran tied at The Quarry

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Bernhard Langer and Russ Cochran both shot 8-under-par 64s to share the day one lead at the ACE Group Classic on Friday.

German legend Bernhard Langer and Russ Cochran both shot 8-under-par 64s to share the lead after the first round of the Champions Tour’s ACE Group Classic on Friday.

Mark O’Meara, back from playing in the Dubai Desert Classic last week, was a shot back in third place after a 65 at the The Quarry in Naples, Florida, that included a hole-out from a bunker for an eagle on the 14th with Mark Calcavecchia, Keith Fergus and Olin Browne tied for fourth at 5 under.

Defending champion Fred Couples has given the event a miss this year, preferring instead to play in the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open at one of his favourite courses, Riviera CC in Los Angeles.

Langer, who earned the Player of the Year award and the money title last year, was looking for a better showing after finishing tied for 16th and 17th, respectively, in his previous two, 2011 season-opening tournaments.

“I wasn’t happy the first two tournaments I played,” Langer said.

“There were good moments in both of those tournaments, but there was also too much other stuff, too many dropped shots, too many missed opportunities.”

Langer has never been a slacker when it comes to hard work.

“I worked really hard the last few days, extremely hard; maybe too much,” he said.

“I kind of wore myself out, but it didn’t show today. I had enough energy to play the 18 holes. I needed to improve on certain areas, and I showed improvement today.”

Cochran birdied four straight holes to close his front nine, then birdied three of the first five on the back nine before adding one more to a series of pars.

“To be honest with you, I made everything I looked at,” said the Tour’s 2009 Rookie of the Year and two-time winner in 2010.

“It was a surprise for me, but a welcome surprise.”

Cochran had opportunities to win going into the final round at both the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii and the Allianz Championship last week, but ended up tying for fourth in both.

Cochran said he “just kind of stunk the place up” in the final round in Hawaii, when he followed up a first-round 62 with a 72 on the final day while playing with one of his heroes, Tom Watson.

Then, when he was again in contention last week, he had to take a drop from an unplayable lie after hitting his ball under a palmetto bush and bogeyed the final hole.

Mark O’Meara, back from playing in the Dubai Desert Classic last week, was third after a 65 that included holing out from a greenside bunker for an eagle on No. 14.

“I kind of hit it a little bit heavy and kind of chunked and ran it up there, so it was about as perfect as it could go in,” he said.

Mark Calcavecchia, Keith Fergus and Olin Browne were tied for fourth at 5 under.

Defending champion Fred Couples skipped this event, playing instead in the Northern Trust Open at Los Angeles.

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