Couples, Haas share Champions Tour lead

November 03, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples shot a 3-under 68 for a share of the lead with assistant captain Jay Haas after the first round of the Champions Tour's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Thursday.


Couples, coming off a victory three weeks ago in San Antonio, had six birdies and three bogeys at TPC Harding Park, the site of the United States' 2009 Presidents Cup victory in his first year as captain.

Haas had four birdies and a bogey.

David Frost and Michael Allen were a stroke back and Charles Schwab Cup points leader Tom Lehman matched Kenny Perry and Rod Spittle at 70.

For the past few weeks, Couples has been dogged by questions about his decision to include Tiger Woods on the American team that will play at Royal Melbourne later this month. The questions continued after his round on Thursday.

"In my mind some of it's very serious and some of it is comical because it just keeps going," said Couples, who guaranteed Woods a spot weeks before his captain's picks were due.

"We have 11 other guys on the team. But it seems like it's all about Tiger. I've picked him and we'll wait until we get to Australia and we'll see how he plays."

Couples, a two-time winner on Tour this season, got off to a quick start with birdies on five of the first nine holes and held a two-stroke lead midway through the back nine before running into trouble in the wet, windy conditions.

He bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14 -- both par 4s -- then added another bogey on the 17th to fall a stroke behind Haas. He recovered on the 18th with a 10-foot birdie putt to regain a share of the lead.

"I didn't dominate the golf course but I drove it well and I made some of the holes seem easier," Couples said. "Today (the weather) was not really that bad. It was more of a nuisance."

Haas, whose only victory this season came at the 3M Championship in Minnesota in late July, had a more consistent round. His only stumble came on the par-3 11th when he flew the green with his tee shot.

Haas made up for it with birdies on 16 and 17 to take a brief one-stroke lead.

"It was a difficult day out there," Haas said. "The rain is not as bad as the rain and the wind. It was a two- or three-club turnaround wind basically on most holes."

The bad weather kept the scores high. Only seven of the 30 players broke par on the picturesque course.

Lehman, attempting to become the first to win player of the year honors on the PGA TOUR, Nationwide Tour and Champion Tour, repeatedly struggled with his approach shots and had only two birdies.

Mark Calcavecchia, second in points behind Lehman, had an even rougher afternoon. He had five birdies but two double bogeys -- one on the par-3 third -- en route to a 71.

Frost eagled the 525-yard par-5 ninth, then birdied No. 10 to get to 5 under, but dropped back with bogeys on Nos. 11, 13 and 14.