HARRISON, N.Y. – Fred Couples shot a 5-under 66 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Senior Players Championship, the Champions Tour’s final major of the season.
Couples is at 8 under for the tournament and trying for his fifth Champions Tour victory. Playing in his first event since undergoing non-traditional back treatment six weeks ago in Germany, Couples has put together two solid rounds at Westchester Country Club’s tree-lined West Course.
“I drove the ball very well,” Couples said. “I didn’t make many mistakes. … I don’t want to say I left any out there. I did miss a couple but I made a few too, so it was a good day.”
Couples turned in his best two opening rounds since the Northern Trust Open in California in February. After a seventh-place finish there, Couples struggled in his next three tournaments, which led him to have the procedure.
Peter Senior remains in second at 7 under after a second-round 69. Corey Pavin is third at 6 under after a second-round 69. John Cook is fourth at 5 under after a second-round 68, one stroke ahead of defending champion Mark O’Meara. O’Meara shot a 70 and is in a three-way tie at 4 under with first-round leader Jeff Sluman (73) and Morris Hatalsky (67).
Gary Hallberg, who tied with Senior in the first round, fell seven strokes behind with a 75.
Couples seemed headed toward a strong round Thursday but faltered on the back nine. He was in danger of a repeat after bogeying No. 12 but rescued the round with birdies on the 13th and 15th holes, sinking putts of 15 and eight feet.
“To be in contention is good for me, to go out Saturday and kind of get the feeling of having to hit a good shot here, make a putt there or get it up and down,” Couples said. “So I’m in good spirits about the way I’m feeling and playing.”
Senior trailed Couples by two strokes for most of the back nine, but after Couples’ final birdie, he was at least three strokes back.
“It’s always good to be in a position like this. I’ve had some opportunities this year and hopefully one weekend I’m going to come through,” Senior said. “We’ve got a lot of good players up at the top so it’s going to be a good weekend.”
Pavin finished below par for the 18th time in 19 rounds, hitting the fairway all 14 times. That set him up for birdie on No. 14 after bogeying the previous two holes, but Pavin could not get closer to the lead.
“I played well when I’ve been around the lead,” said Pavin, who has yet to win a Champions Tour event. “It’s just that someone has always played a little bit better.”
Sluman was unable to duplicate his impressive first round of 65, when he was the only player to birdie holes No. 12-14. Sluman made par on those holes, finished without a birdie and bogeyed the ninth and 16th holes.