KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) Bernhard Langer closed with back-to-back birdies to shoot a 7-under 65 Friday for a 15-under-129 total and a one-shot lead over Fred Couples after the second round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
Langer began the day tied for first with defending champion Duffy Waldorf and Marco Dawson after an opening-round 64 at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course located adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Couples birdied four of the first five holes en route to a 7-under 65 to come in at 130 after 36 holes. Kirk Triplett shot an 8-under 64 to sit alone in third at 131.
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Nine of the 47 golfers who teed it up in the first event of the PGA Tour Champions season were within four shots of the lead entering Saturday’s final round. Conditions were ideal the first two days as 41 golfers were under par.
Couples, who missed most of last year with wrist and back injuries, showed few signs of rust after carding 16 birdies against two bogeys but couldn’t shake Langer, who has won this event twice. Langer was named the tour’s player of the year with four wins and four runner-up finishes. He stayed close to Couples for most of the round thanks to four birdies on the front nine and had four more birdies against a lone bogey at the 12th on the back swing.
Several times on the back nine Couples fought through a sore back, wincing on his drive at 18 and trying to do stretching exercises whenever he could.
”It’s barking,” Couples said of his back after bogeying the last hole. ”But I made it through the round.”
Champions tour rookie David Toms is in a group of four tied for fourth at 132 after he shot the best round of the day at 9-under 63. Joining him are Waldorf (68), Lee Janzen (66) and Olin Browne (67).