POTOMAC, Md. – Buoyed by birdies on the first five holes, Russ Cochran shot a course-record 6-under 64 to take a one-shot lead at the Senior Players ChampionshipChampions Tour. Cochran, who will turn 52 at the end of this month, is also trying for his first major victory at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
“We got it going early and then like you do a lot of times, you kind of hold on for dear life after that,” Cochran said. “But the start was great.”
Michael Allen remains second at 5 under after a second-round 67, and Mark O’Meara shot another 68 to stand alone at 4 under. First-round leader Tom Kite followed his first-round 67 with an even-par 70, leaving him tied with Jeff Sluman.
“The golf course is very difficult, and if you can play the weekend under par, you’re going to be in very good shape,” Sluman said after his second-round 67. “That’s what you work for.”
Loren Roberts and Jay Don Blake were five shots off the pace, while Mike Goodes and Joe Ozaki were tied for eighth, six shots behind. Champions Tour points leader Bernhard Langer shot 73, while rival Fred Couples withdrew from the tournament due to a back ailment.
Cochran, who had a long, workmanlike career on the PGA Tour, has broken through over the last month on the Champions Tour with wins at the Songdo Championship and the SAS Championship, a surge he credits to becoming a more aggressive player.
On Friday, Cochran put that practice in motion. Starting on the back nine, he attacked friendly pin placements and quickly established himself at the top of the leaderboard.
“We kind of decided today we were going to be a little more aggressive if we could because there’s not that many great bailouts,” Cochran said. “So we hit it pretty much at the flag. The more times you feel like you can step up and at least make that aggressive swing and try to stay with your line, I feel better about myself and my game.”
After his hot start, Cochran added a birdie at No. 2 and then took what the course gave him to finish his solid round.
“I’ve been streaky this year – it allows me to be a little more patient throughout the rest of the round,” Cochran said.
Sluman, who has played with Cochran for 20 years on both the PGA and Champions tours, has not been surprised at his friend’s recent resurgence.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence and he’s freewheeling it out there,” Sluman said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize what kind of player he was. I knew right from the get-go how talented he was.”
Allen kept pace with Cochran for most of the day before a bogey at No. 7 dropped him into second place, where he hopes to make a move during the weekend play against a top five that boasts four major championship winners.
“It will be fun to go out and play those guys the next few days,” said Allen, who won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship. “It’s a challenging course and you can’t just get away with cheaping it around here.”