Saturday, November 03, 2012

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Taking advantage of perfect conditions and a relaxed pairing with close friend Fred Couples, Jay Haas matched the Champions Tour record with a 10-under 60 to open a five-stroke lead Friday in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

The 58-year-old Haas made a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th after hitting his second shot into a greenside bunker and leaving his eagle blast short.

``It was just a very magical day for me,'' Haas said. ``I had a great pairing. I love playing with Freddie. ... It was a wonderful day. One of those that you don't want to end.''

Haas became the eighth player in the history of the 50-and-over tour to shoot 60, and the first since Nick Price last year in the Toshiba Classic.

``I can't remember another time that I've had a chance to shoot a 59,'' Haas said. ``I was thinking about it without question. I hit a decent bunker shot. It stopped a little quicker for me than I thought.''

Haas also broke the course record on Desert Mountain's Cochise layout, closing with a 7-under 28 on the back nine to finish a stroke off the tour's nine-hole record.

Tom Lehman was second in the season-ending event after a 63, moving into position to win the Charles Schwab Cup points race. Bernhard Langer, 211 points ahead of second-place Lehman, was tied for fifth at 6 under after a 65.

Couples was third at 8 under after a 66.

``Wow! What a round he had,'' Couples said about Haas. ``I had a good time, 4-under par. I'm not going to complain, but when a guy is shooting 10 under it seems like you're shooting 80.''

Haas is 14 under after two days in perfect conditions on the mountainside course. The nine-time PGA Tour winner won the Principal Charity Classic in Iowa in June for his 16th victory on the senior tour.

``The course is magnificent,'' Haas said. ``The fairways are like carpets. The greens are perfect. So, if you hit a poor shot, it's my fault.''

After making three birdies on the front nine to take the lead at 7 under, Haas chipped in for birdie from 35 feet on the par-4 10th after his 8-iron approach landed on the false front and spun off into the rough.

That was the only green he missed in regulation, and gave him a chance to test his work Monday with noted short-game instructor Stan Utley.

``I spent about an hour with Stan Utley up here at Grayhawk and he gave me some tips,'' Haas said. ``I told him I was chipping really poorly, and he gave me some things to think about. ... I certainly have to applaud Stan for that.''

He also birdied the next three holes, holing a 7-foot putt on No. 11 and 15-footers on 12 and 13.

``I kind of should have known my day was going really well because I thought I pushed the putt on 11,'' he said. ``I started walking and I misread it. It broke a lot more than I thought and it caught the high edge and went into the hole.''

Haas missed an 8-foot birdie try on the par-4 14th and settled for a birdie on the par-5 15th after missing a 9-foot eagle putt.

``Fifteen was the break of the day, really,'' Haas said. ``I had too much club in my hand with 21-degree hybrid. Hit it in the neck just a little bit, and it hit just short and kicked up. ... I didn't hit it the way I wanted to, but it turned out nicely.''

He parred the par-4 16th after a 117-yard wedge shot that came up 20 feet short and right, then hit a 5-iron to 8 feet to set up a birdie on the par-3 17th.

Couples is playing for the first time since a back injury forced him to withdraw during the first round of the Boeing Classic outside Seattle in late August. Before this week, he hadn't completed a competitive round since winning the Senior British Open in July for his second victory of the year.

``I'm excited to be out here playing,'' Couples said.

Lehman's 63 was his lowest round on the Champions Tour.

``I was extremely pleased with my play today,'' Lehman said. ``As disappointed as I was with my finish yesterday, it was just the opposite today.''

Langer and Lehman would win the season title with a victory, while third-place Roger Chapman needs a victory and some help to top the standings.

The tournament winner will get 880 points, with players receiving a point for every $500 they earn in the $2.5 million event.

Langer won the points title in 2010, and Lehman won last year.

``We're out there to do the best we can and at the end of the day we'll find out what happens,'' Langer said.

Chapman was tied for 21st in the 30-man field at 1 under after a 70.

Jay Don Blake, the defending champion and first-round leader, followed his opening 64 with a 71 to drop into a tie for eighth at 5 under. Blake won last year at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

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