Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Couples Back on Top Defending Champ Overcomes Ailment to Shoot 63, Take Second-Round Lead

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Couples Back on Top Defending Champ Overcomes Ailment to Shoot 63, Take Second-Round Lead

Article excerpt

The second-round leader board at the Constellation Senior Players Championship has the distinct look of outpatient medical center, starting with the patient at the top, Fred Couples.

After getting 12 shots in his chronically ailing back last week, he has walked somewhat gingerly around the Fox Chapel Golf Club for two days, feeling like an ironing board.

That, though, hasn't stopped the defending champion from leading the field in driving distance and being able to bend over to pick out of the cup any of the eight birdie putts he made in the second round.

"It just hasn't loosened up," Couples said. "I feel OK, but I'm really, really stiff."

Not far behind is Tom Lehman, whose right knee felt so bad before the round he said he contemplated not playing. But the 2011 player of the year on the Champions Tour worked out the kinks well enough in the 96-degree heat to finish with two birdies and a dazzling par save in the final three holes.

Then there was Bill Glasson, a walking medical marvel if ever there was one. He is more than two years removed from the most recent of his 25 surgeries that caused him to win seven of his PGA Tour titles with seven rebuilt swings. If he wasn't so afraid he would injure himself again, Glasson would cross his fingers and hope his genetic bad luck is behind him.

And that doesn't include Joe Daley, who past physical ailments cannot even begin to compare to the mental anguish he felt 12 years ago when a putt at the 17th hole in the fourth round of PGA Tour Qualifying School jumped out of the hole after going down and hitting the cup liner. Daley eventually missed his tour card by one shot.

"I rolled that putt so good," Daley said. "I wish I could roll every putt that good. That's ancient history."

On a day when the heat index climbed to 105, nobody was hotter than Couples, who began the day with back-to-back birdies and finished off his round of 7-under 63 with four birdies in the final six holes. Couples has made 12 birdies and just one bogey in two days and is at 11-under 129.

After two rounds, the 1992 Masters champion champ has hit 34 of 36 greens in regulation and leads the field in driving distance (323.3 yards). The ball was flying so far in the heat that Couples hit a 5-iron from 205 yards at the 574-yard 18th to finish off his round with a two-putt birdie.

"There are some birdie spots out there," Couples said. "It's very doable if you hit a good drive and then you clip a wedge or sand wedge on some of those shorter holes in there close. It can make you look bad, too, and I just haven't had any real struggles yet."

Couples has a one-shot lead on Daley, who is appearing in just his 11th Champions Tour event but has made a tournament-best 16 birdies in two days. Daley, 51, made nine birdies Friday to shoot 64 and finish at 10 under.

Lehman limped around the golf course and is alone in third at 7 under. …

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