CONOVER, N.C. – Fred Couples shot a 6-under 66 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer into the final round of the Ensure Classic.
Couples was at 12-under 132 after the second round of the Champions Tour event at the Rock Barn Golf and Spa.
Couples, gunning for his fourth win of the season but first since winning in the Dominican Republic on March 28, had nine birdies in overcoming a bogey and double-bogey on the par-4 13th. His lead over Langer could have been greater, but he missed a 20-foot putt for eagle by 18 inches on No. 18.
“I played pretty well … and I would never turn back shooting 6-under and 6-under,” Couples said. “I hit a lot of very good shots and one bad one. I made a lot of birdies, which I’m going to have to do (Sunday).
“I can’t see Bernhard or Nick Price making too many bogeys, but if I can make seven or eight birdies, I’ll be pretty tough tomorrow.”
Langer, who had a 67, is pursuing his sixth win this season on the 50-and-over circuit and leads Couples by 672 points in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
The German got off to a rough start Saturday, bogeying No. 1. But he fought back with seven birdies and only one bogey the rest of the way to remain in the lead group for Sunday’s final round.
“I had those two bogeys, which was the only thing I didn’t like,” Langer said. “I had a really bad break to start, but I got it right back. … It was a fairly solid round. I’m trying to stay in contention and win tournaments. Obviously, I can’t control what the others do, but I can play the best I can.”
Morris Hatalsky (65) and Nick Price (67) were another stroke back at 134.
“I’ve really hit a lot of greens the last two days,” said Price, who matched his first-round score with five birdies Saturday. “The conditions made it a little easier for us.”
A day after winds gusted to 25 mph and fairways were showing the affects of five days of rain, Saturday’s round was played in light winds, with the course firming up after two days of sunshine.
“It was a day for scoring,” said Hatalsky, who had the day’s lowest round in a bid to win his first Champions Tour event in more than 4 1/2 years, a span of 109 tournaments. “It was nice to put together a full round of golf. My short game has been very disappointing this year, but not this week.”
Tommy Armour III (67) and Dan Forsman (68) were tied for fifth at 135, with 16 other golfers within six strokes of Couples heading into Sunday’s final round.
Among them was first-round leader Peter Senior, who faltered from his 65 Friday to shoot an even-par 72. He was at 138 with eight other players.
Two-time and defending tournament champion Jay Haas also struggled, finishing with a 73 after shooting a 68 Friday. He was at 141 with four other players.