Fred Couples birdied six of the first seven holes and finished with a course-record 10-under 62 on Saturday to take a seven-stroke lead in the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship.
Couples had 12 birdies — six en route to a back-nine 30 — and a double bogey to reach 17 under at TPC San Antonio’s Canyons Course, the first-year venue after nine years at Oak Hills.
”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, who remembers shooting a 61 in a competitive round only at the Scandinavian Masters in Sweden. ”You don’t get leads like this very often.”
On the par-3 fourth, Couples pushed his tee shot and dumped a chip into a bunker en route to the double bogey. He won the Senior Players Championship on Aug. 21 at Westchester for his first senior major title.
Mark Calcavecchia was second after a bogey-free 66. He made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
The seven-stroke lead is the largest 36-hole margin on the 50-and-older tour since 1998 when Isao Aoki, Hale Irwin and Larry Nelson led events by eight shots.
”Odds are we’ve identified this year’s champion,” Calcavecchia said. ”I don’t see Fred having a bad day.”
Couples broke the tournament record of 130 set by Mark McNulty in his 2004 victory, and the 62 tied the event record set by Gil Morgan in 2004 and matched by John Harris in 2005.
”I thought after the double bogey that I wasn’t going to let that get to me,” Couples said. ”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.”
Nick Price (69) was third at 9 under. Scott Simpson had a chance to join Calcavecchia in second but bogeyed the 18th and finished at 8 under after a 67. John Cook (67), Tom Lehman (67) and Peter Senior (67) also were 8 under. First-round coleader Steve Lowery (72) was 7 under.
Calcavecchia, second in the Charles Schwab Cup, is trying to cut Lehman’s lead. The top 30 after the tournament will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Nov. 3-6 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.