Australia’s Peter Senior equaled his Champions Tour personal-low-round mark of 63, which is also the Charles Schwab Cup record for low first round, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco today, and leads the final tournament of the Champions Tour season by a stroke over South Africa’s David Frost, with Fred Couples another stroke behind.
Senior hopes to shed the dubious distinction of being the most successful Champions Tour player (in terms of on-course earnings) without a win. The Singapore-born Australian has won $4,269,643 in ninety-four Champions Tour appearances, with five second-place finishes and thirty-three Top-10s, but has yet to notch up a victory on the 50+ tour. He has, however, carded two victories against younger players since turning 50, winning the 2010 Australian PGA Championship and the Emirates Australian Open last year.
Unfortunately for his ambitions for a win on the Champions Tour, history is not on Senior’s side. Nine of twenty-five 1st-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win during the 2013 Champions Tour season, but none of those victories came in any of the five four-round events during the regular season (unlike the PGA Tour, where all events are four rounds, regular Champions Tour events are three rounds; only the Champions Tour’s major championship are four rounds.)
Senior matched nine birdies and an eagle—at the 525-yard par-5 ninth hole—against three bogeys for his 8-under 63 on the 7,127-yard, 36/35–71 TPC Harding Park layout. David Frost, lying one stroke back of Senior, posted a bogey-free 64, carding six of his seven birdies on the front nine for an outbound 30. The South African cooled off on the back nine with a lone birdie, on the 480-yard par-4 twelfth hole.
Couples is close on the heels of Senior and Frost
One stroke back of Frost is Fred Couples, who birdied four out of five holes, including three straight, after a bogey at the second hole, before falling afoul of the 230-yard par-3 eighth hole. A pulled tee shot at #8 landed in a grassy, bunker-like area right of the green, and Couples’ recovery shot to the far-left hole location came out hot, running through the green to the light rough past the hole. A short flop shot that failed to release and run out led to a two-putt double bogey.
The double at the eighth was the 3-time Presidents Cup captain’s last misstep in the round, as he ran off back-to-back birdies on the next two holes, then another string of three straight birds on 12 through 14 before parring in for his 6-under 65.
The short flop shot at #8 was one of two times that Couples failed to execute on a short flop shot; the other came at #2, his only other over-par hole in the round. His second shot, out of the right side rough, knuckled in hot and rolled through the green to the rough off the back side. His third shot dropped dead on the green with little or no release, leaving him with a 20-odd-foot par putt that slid by on the right side of the hole.
While Couples’ chipping game left him in the lurch a couple of times during the round, his mid-and short-iron game was a shotmaking clinic. Playing with Aero-tech graphite-shafted irons that he has had in his bag since midsummer, Couples was launching (mostly) high, soft-landing approaches to Harding Park’s firm, fast greens, leaving makeable birdie putts that he took good advantage of on the way to his 6-under 65.
Play in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship resumes Friday morning at 10:30 AM, with pairs going off at 10-minute intervals until 12:20 PM.