Toshiba Classic: Round 3 notebook

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March 07, 2010
Dave Senko, Champions Tour staff

Weather: Mostly cloudy and breezy with highs in the low-60s. Winds were from the WNW at 10-20 mph with higher gusts.

• After a slow start with just one birdie on the front nine, Fred Couples pulled away from the field, posting a 5-under 31 on the back nine for a four-stroke win over Ronnie Black. Tom Lehman, who celebrated his 51st birthday on Sunday, and rookie Chien-Soon Lu tied for third, six strokes back. Watson and Loren Roberts tied for fifth. Couples' four-stroke win was the largest margin of victory in the event since Mark Johnson won by four strokes in 2005.

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• The victory earned Couples a first-place check for $255,000 and increased his lead in the money race to nearly $270,000 over Bernhard Langer. Couples has now won $691,000 in just three starts.

• Couples leads the Charles Schwab Cup race with 691 points and is now 291 points in front of Bernhard Langer. Watson is in third place with 390 points, just 10 behind Langer. Lehman (291) and Black (211) round out the top five.

• Couples winning 54-hole total of 18-under 195 was just one shy of the all-time tournament record of 194 by Jay Haas in 2002.

• Couples has now posted nine consecutive rounds in the 60s in as many starts this year and is now 56 under in those nine rounds on the Champions Tour in 2010. He also has five eagles and 53 birdies in those nine rounds and has hit 133 of 162 Greens in Regulation (82.1 percent).

• Couples became the sixth player in tournament history to win in his first appearance. The other five players who had done it included Gary McCord (1999), Jose Maria Canizares (2001), Rodger Davis (2003), Johnson (2005) and Brad Bryant (2006).

• Couples is not the only player to have run off nine straight rounds in the 60s this year. Lehman fired a 2-under 69, giving him nine straight as well. Lehman is 42 under on the year and has finished fourth, tied for fifth and tied for third.

• Here are Couples' 54-hole statistics:

Fairways Hit -- 24 of 42 (57.1%/T65)

Greens in Regulation -- 42 of 54 (77.8%/T6)

Putts Per Round -- 27.7/3

Driving Distance -- 295.7/1

• When Couples tees it up later this month at The Cap Cana Championship, he'll be bidding to become the first player to win three consecutive starts since Jay Haas did so in 2006 when he won the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, FedEx Kinko's Classic and the Senior PGA Championship.

• With two wins in his first three starts on his resume, Couples joins a group which includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player with two wins in their first three starts. Dale Douglass and Bruce Fleisher also did that.

• Black's second-place finish was the second of his Champions Tour career. He was tied for second at last year's Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

• Watson's final-round 9-under 62 matched the best final round in tournament history (Hale Irwin/1998) and it also matched Watson's best career round. He posted a 62 at the 1999 Bank One Championship and later fired a similar number at the 2003 JELD-WEN Tradition. His low round on the PGA TOUR was a 63 which he did three times, the last at the 1992 Buick Invitational of California.

David Peoples enjoyed a successful debut on the Champions Tour. Peoples fired three straight rounds in the 60s to claim a tie for ninth. Ted Schulz, who also made his first start, tied for 33rd.

• Lu, who earned a berth at the Toshiba thanks to a top-10 finish at the Allianz Championship, will play in The Cap Cana Championship thanks to his tie for third. Lu is conditionally exempt this year after finishing 12th at last fall's National Qualifying Tournament. In two starts this year, Lu has earned $153,000 and is 12th on the money list.

• Champions Tour winners are posting some impressive numbers this year with all four champions posting 54-hole scores of less than 200. It is the first time in Champions Tour history that has happened. Watson won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai with a score of 22-under 194. Couples (The ACE Group Classic) and Bernhard Langer (Allianz Championship) each fired a 54-hole total of 17-under 199 to win, and Couples became the fourth with his 18-under 195 this week.

• For the 14th time in 15 tournaments at the Newport Beach Country Club, hole No. 15 ranked as the easiest on the course with an average of 4.492 (-.508). That was the lowest scoring average since 2003. For the event, there were 10 eagles and 113 birdies. The most difficult was No. 17 with an average of 3.275 (+.275).

• The field averaged 70.792 for the week, a slight increase over the 2009 average of 70.756.

• Black has now posted 140 consecutive holes without a three-putt, the best current streak on Tour this year.

Corey Pavin had his first top-10 finish of the year, tying for seventh. The former UCLA Bruin closed with a 4-under 67.

Eduardo Romero, the 2009 winner, tied for 17th.

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