SAN FRANCISCO – Mike Goodes has never stopped believing. It is his stock-in-trade on the Champions Tour. That, and his desire to continue improving, continue learning and continue getting as good as he can at the game he calls his passion.
Goodes, in his fourth appearance in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, opened Thursday with a 3-under-par 68 at TPC Harding Park. It comes on the heels of a T18 finish at the AT&T Championship where Goodes posted a second-round 63 to get into contention.
“One good round a week,” Goodes said. “I’ll try to put three or four good rounds together this week.”
The round by Goodes had a chance to be better. There were a couple of lip-outs and birdie putts that stopped just short of the hole early in the round, especially at the seventh hole.
“I’ve been hitting it good,” said Goodes, who is making his first appearance at TPC Harding Park. “Everything has been good.”
Goodes is in his seventh season on the Champions Tour. He won the Allianz Championship in 2009. Last year, he returned to the top 30 for the first time in three years and replicated the feat this year.
Goodes isn’t one of those guys who played 30 years on the PGA TOUR and slid seamlessly onto the Champions Tour. Goodes had another career – he owns a packaging company and is a partner in a plastic-recycling business – before the opportunity to play professional golf on the Champions Tour came along.
There is no question in his mind that he’s a better player now – he’ll be 57 in a month - than he was when he arrived on the Champions Tour.
“No question at all,” Goodes said. “I’ve learned so much being around these guys for seven years. Fred Funk has become a close friend. I watch how he works, how he gets ready for tournaments … There’s a wealth of knowledge out here. I try to absorb as much as I can. Plus, I’ve worked harder than I ever have in my life and I’ve been lucky not to be injured so I could work at it.
“The game is still a passion for me. I’m not burned out. I cherish every tournament and every day.”
PAIN IN THE NECK: A sore neck didn’t stop Fred Couples from shooting 65.
“I would rather have a back problem than a neck problem, that much I'm finding out, but now I've got them both,” Couples said. “I'm going to get X-rays next week in Los Angeles and see what they say, but I don't feel great. I can swing, but my neck's really killing me.”
Couples said the discomfort began right after the Presidents Cup last month during which he captained the United States to victory for a third straight time.
“I didn't do anything, I didn't slip, nothing,” he said. “I woke up one day and I couldn't move, and then the next day was worse and it's kind of been that way for two weeks, maybe longer, three weeks. I'm afraid to really do anything (medically). I don't want anyone feeling around and then be in a headlock and not be able to move. I can move, it just hurts.”
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE: The first-round of the Rookie of the Year match-up was a draw. Esteban Toledo and Rocco Mediate matched 1-under 70s but they did it in decidedly different ways.
Mediate reached 4-under through 14 holes before his round was derailed by a triple-bogey 7 at the 18th. Toledo squandered a few chances early but a birdie on the ninth hole turned things around and he shot 33 on the back.
“I only hit one bad shot,” Toledo said.
It was the approach to the sixth hole, a 473-yard par 4, and led to a bogey. The aftershocks lingered and he made bogey on the next two holes. He made bogey from 83 yards in the fairway at the short par 4 seventh hole.
“I know where I stand and I know what I need to do,” Toledo said. “The last 12 holes I played well and had a lot of fun. I’m in position, not that far away (from the lead). On this course, you’re never far away. The next three days we’ll see what happens.”
FROST'S ON FIRE: David Frost needed just 10 putts on the front nine to shoot 30 on his way to 64. Frost and leader Peter Senior (63) each had 24 putts for the round.
“I hit it really close a couple of holes,” Frost said. “And made a bunch of 10, 15 footers … I capitalized on the shots that I did hit close, and the couple greens that I missed I managed to chip it really close, too. I rolled the ball really nice. Missed two chances on 10 and 11, then I made a monster on 12. But the golf course is in such great shape it looks like you can make every putt out there if you just read it right.”
-- Australia’s Peter Senior, the Champions Tour’s all-time leading money-winner without a victory ($4,269,643/$45,422 per event), fired an 8-under 63 and leads South Africa’s David Frost by one stroke after the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park. Senior offset three bogeys with nine birdies and an eagle early in the day while Frost’s bogey-free round included seven birdies. Both players posted front-nine scores of 6-under 30. In his Champions Tour career which spans 94 events, Senior has finished second five times and has totaled 33 top-10s.
-- Senior’s 8-under 63 today matched the best first-round score in Charles Schwab Cup Championship history and also matched his lowest round ever on the Champions Tour (63, 2012 Senior PGA Championship, Rd. 2). In 2003 at Sonoma Golf Club, Jim Thorpe shot 63 in the first round and went on to win the event by three strokes.
-- On the 2013 Champions Tour, just nine of 25 first-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win but none of the previous five four-round events this year have been won by a Thursday leader/co-leader. The last time it happened was late May of 2012 when Roger Chapman won the Senior PGA Championship after leading by one after the first round.
-- In the previous 23 Charles Schwab Cup Championships, a first-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win nine times with John Cook being the last champion to do so in 2010. Last year, eventual-champion Tom Lehman was T11 after the first round, four strokes back of Jay Don Blake.
-- Senior has been a first-round leader/co-leader on the Champions Tour four other times, and before today, the last time he was in this position and held sole possession of the first-round lead was at the 2012 Pacific Links Hawaii Championship where he eventually finished third. This is the first time he’s been in this position in a four-round event on the Champions Tour.
-- Seven players made their first appearance in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship – Duffy Waldorf (67/-4/T5), Esteban Toledo (70/E/T17), Rocco Mediate (70/-1/T17), Gene Sauers (68/-3/T8), Bart Bryant (68/-3/T8 ), Steve Elkington (67/-4/T5) and John Riegger (72/+1/T26 ). In the history of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, eight players have won this event in their first appearance, including Jay Don Blake two years ago at TPC Harding Park. Jay Haas (70/-1/T17) made his ninth consecutive appearance in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship today. In his first appearance in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship since 2008, Craig Stadler carded a 3-over 74 (T28).