SNOQUALMIE, Wash. – Russ Cochran shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over Jeff Sluman after the first round of the Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic.
Cochran, the Senior British Open winner last month, had an eagle, five birdies and a bogey at sun-baked TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. The scoring average of 73.506 was the highest single-round total in the seven-year history of the tournament and nearly a half-stroke higher than the previous record set in the second round a year ago.
“The fairways firmed up and you would think immediately that it’s a great thing when the fairways get firm for instance but a lot of times we were running out through the fairway into the rough so you had to be very careful out there,” Cochran said.
Cochran eagled the par-5 eighth to reach 2 under. The left-hander birdied No. 11, then had three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 to take sole possession of the lead. He dropped a stroke on 17, but countered with a birdie on 18 to get back to 6 under.
Cochran missed more than two months this year because of a right wrist injury. He returned for the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, then won the Senior British Open for his third Champions Tour victory and first major title.
“To be honest with you, my round just consisted of probably the best scoring that I’ve done since I’ve been out here on tour,” Cochran said. “I hit a poor chip, but other than that I made great par saves. I got the ball in the right spot and I made great par putts and lag putts and bunker shots and the whole works. Just scored really, really well.”
Defending champion Bernhard Langer was two strokes back at 68 along with Hale Irwin and Ted Schulz. The 66-year-old Irwin had a hole-in-one on the par-3 ninth.
Fred Couples, the hometown star coming off a victory Sunday in New York in the Seniors Players Championship, shot a 73.
Sluman birdied four of the final five holes.
“A really nice finish,” Sluman said. “Really I wasn’t thinking of shooting 67 standing on the 14th tee box that’s for sure, but you never know when you’re going to make some birdies. It happened quickly and I was glad it happened.”
Irwin holed a 6-iron shot from 185 yards on the ninth. His shot landed on the front collar of the green just over a bunker and rolled up and in for the ace. It was Irwin’s sixth career ace and first on the Champions Tour. His last hole-in-one came in the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
“It’s a shot that if you land on the green you’re probably going to be long,” Irwin said. “The distance for me was probably a 5 1/2 -iron but that was not going to have any spin. It was going to land on the green and run through. So I thought if I could really muscle up a 6, and I hit it really solidly and it landed about (a foot) from the cut of the green.”
“It was going close the whole way. It wasn’t kind of a fluky, hit the flag and fall down. It had to have just dropped in.”