Cochran shoots 65 in return

Russ Cochran made six consecutive birdies and shot a 7 under 65

to take the first-round lead at the First Tee Open on Friday.

Cochran had seven birdies overall and played a bogey free round

in his return to the Champions Tour after suffering a wrist injury

that led to a two-month layoff. Cochran was only 1 under through 11

holes before going on his run of birdies at the Pebble Beach Golf

Links.

”I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Cochran, who is

ninth on the money list this year. ”I just haven’t been pushing

it. I’ll know tomorrow how it feels but right now it feels fine.

Obviously when you’re making putts and hitting good shots, it sure

helps it feel a lot better.”

David Eger was one shot back at 66, followed by Brad Bryant,

Morris Hatalsky and Jim Thorpe at 67. Ten others were tied at

68.

Defending tournament champion Ted Schulz struggled all afternoon

and was at 1 over 73.

The three-day event is being played on two 18-hole courses on

the Monterey Peninsula. Most of the low scores came at the

6,365-yard Del Monte while Cochran opened on the 6,871-yard Pebble

Beach.

A two-time winner on the 50-and-under tour in 2010, Cochran had

three top-five finishes in seven events before injuring his right

wrist hitting a divot during the second round of the Liberty Mutual

Legends of Golf tournament in late April.

It’s the same wrist that Cochran previously had surgery on, and

although he finished the tournament and played 18 holes at an

appearance the following day, it ultimately knocked him out

competition for a while. Cochran eventually met with a specialist

in New York but played golf only sparingly over the next month and

not on the tour.

The layoff obviously helped.

Cochran, who shot a 65 in the final round of this tournament in

2010, started on the back nine and hit his opening tee shot into a

bunker but made a nice recovery and sank a 10-foot birdie putt. He

stayed at 1 under at the turn, then narrowly missed a birdie putt

on the par 5 No. 2 before storming to the top of the leaderboard

with his stellar run.

The six consecutive birdies matches the best streak on tour this

season.

”After playing nine or 10 holes without a birdie, all of a

sudden they just started falling in from everywhere,” Cochran

said. ”If you get a couple under or par or see a couple putts go,

then the golf course and the greens especially look a little

different to you. I won’t say I’m shocked that I played that good.

My job is going to be trying to continue to follow it up, not

(just) this week.”

Eger, who teamed with Mark McNulty to win the Legends event,

moved into contention with five birdies over his final eight

holes.

”I struggled the first 10 holes and didn’t hit many greens,”

said Eger, a runner-up to Tom Watson at the Senior PGA Championship

in May after losing a one-hole playoff to the Hall of Famer. ”Then

starting on 11 I started playing much better. The good scores are

obviously going to be over here at Del Monte.”

Bryant overcame a bogey on No. 7 and closed his round with an

eagle on the par 5 ninth.

Jeff Sluman, a two-time winner of this tournament, shot a 68 and

was joined by Mike Reid, Steve Lowery, Jay Haas, Robin Freeman,

Mark Calcavecchia, Bill Glasson, Jim Gallagaher Jr., D.A. Weibring

and Jay Don Blake.

John Cook, winner of the Montreal Championship last week, was

six strokes behind Cochran at 71. Cook is the only one of the top

four players on the Charles Schwab Cup points list playing

here.