Rich Beem, the reigning PGA Champion, shot a 5-under 67 and is alone in third place. Jeff Brehaut and Paul Goydos, who holed out from 199 yards in the 18th fairway for eagle, share fourth place after rounds of 4-under 68.
The Charlotte area is hosting its first PGA Tour event since the Kemper Open bolted for Maryland in 1979. The first round was a stern test but it could have been worse as rain soaked the course the past three days. Still, only 41 players managed to break par, and just 10 were in the 60s.
'You can see what's going to happen,' said Couples. 'It's going to firm up, and all this 66 stuff is going to go away.'
'It's a straightforward, honest golf course,' Price said. 'There is no goofiness to it. I don't mind playing a par-4 that's 490 yards long if you allow me to run the ball up to the green. You get what you play here. I think that's what we all look for on a great course.'
The co-leaders have been riding highs for the last couple of weeks.
Price was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame on Tuesday after a career that has featured 18 PGA Tour wins, including three majors.
On Thursday, Price opened on the back nine and collected only two birdies in his first nine holes. He went birdie-bogey-birdie around the turn but the 46- year-old made his move up the leaderboard with his play at the end of his round.
Price birdied three holes in a five-hole span from the fifth to reach 6-under par, but staying at that number proved tricky. At the ninth, Price had 201 yards to the hole and ran a shot over the putting surface. He pitched to eight feet and sunk the putt to remain in first place.
'I imagine if we don't get any rain by Saturday afternoon and Sunday, this golf course is going to be playing very difficult,' said Price, who often complains of added length to golf courses. 'It's going to be a wonderful test.'
Couples is on a hot streak of his own. Two weeks ago he broke out of a five-year slump with a win at the Houston Open.
'I'm riding this wave and playing well,' said Couples, who also had top-10s at this year's Nissan Open and Players Championship.
Couples birdied the par-3 second hole and added another at the eighth to make the turn at 2-under par. He reached the fringe on the 591-yard 10th with a 3-wood and two-putted for birdie.
Couples made it two in a row with a birdie at 11 and he picked up birdie No. 5 of the round at the 14th. He was once again able to reach a par-5 in two with a 3-wood, this time at the uphill 15th. He two-putted again for birdie and found himself tied with Price.
Stephen Ames, Scott Laycock, John Senden, Duffy Waldorf and Kirk Triplett are tied for sixth place at 3-under-par 69.
Mike Weir made his return to the PGA Tour after winning the Masters last month. He holed an 8-iron from 161 yards for an eagle at the 11th but only managed an even-par 72.
Weir, who became the first Canadian to win a major, was not disappointed at his score but his introduction at his first hole. There was no mention of his Masters victory.
'I was waiting for that ringing in my ear -- Masters champion,' said Weir. 'Maybe I'll get that down the road.'