Couples Finds His Groove

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Fred Couples, bad back and all, wasnt overly concerned about playing 22 holes in a single day at The Players Championship.
 
He was more concerned about finding a groove.
 
He found it immediately Friday morning, and, consequently, found himself in a share of the 18-hole lead.
 
Couples and 67 others had to complete their first rounds this morning after rain postponed play Thursday evening.
 
The 1984 and 96 Players champion played his four remaining holes in 2-under for a delayed 5-under 67. He is tied with Irelands Padraig Harrington.
 
Couples was at 5-under Thursday before dropping consecutive shots at 2 and 3, his 11th and 12th holes of the round. He recovered those two strokes this morning with birdies on 7 and 9.
 
Couples is one of only four players to have won this event twice. No one has ever successfully defended his title.
 
Harrington, who is trying join Sandy Lyle (1987) as the only European-born player to win this event, completed the final eight holes of his first round in 4-under. He birdied 11, 13, 14 and 15 upon his return to the very wet, yet very receptive venue.
 
Defending champion Craig Perks, Niclas Fasth and Steve Jones went out early to finish off rounds of 4-under 68. Jay Haas, Skip Kendall, Rocco Mediate and Bob Tway also shot 68 before the rains came Thursday.
 
Perks was on the 14th green when play was suspended, leaving him with a dubious Day 2 beginning.
 
But this is the guy who played the final three holes in 3-under to win last year ' and he almost did it again the time around.
 
After trading a birdie at 14 for a bogey at 15, Perks almost eagled the par-5 16th, just as he did Sunday a year ago. Instead, he settled for a birdie when his 50-foot effort missed by inches.
 
He made it back-to-back birdies by sinking a 15-footer at the par-3 17th -- which he did en route to victory, and then saved par at 18 despite missing the fairway and the green -- which he did as well when he won.
 
Play resumed at 7:30 AM ET, with the second round starting at 8:30. That proved positive for Perks and Couples.
 
Couples birdied his first two holes, while Perks birdies his first, the 10th, and then eagled the par-5 11th.
 
Tiger Woods, who opened in even-par 72, tees off at 1:55 PM. The final threesome is scheduled for 3:05.
 
Rain is expected to return Saturday evening and extended into Sunday, when a cold front is also predicted to arrive.
 
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