CAP CANA, Dominican Republic (AP) Nick Price is finally gaining confidence in his game after several disappointing years.
Price showed why on Friday, shooting a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead with Chip Beck after the first round of the Champions Tour's $1.6 million Cap Cana Championship.
Price and Beck took advantage of light winds and brilliant sunshine at the 7,176-yard Punta Espada Golf Club to head the 78-player field.
Fred Couples, already a two-time winner on the Champions Tour this season, former Masters champion Larry Mize, Olin Browne and David Peoples each shot a 67 and were one shot back on the par-72, Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
Major championship winners Corey Pavin (U.S. Open) and Bob Tway (PGA Championship) were among six players who shot 68. Nine others were at 69.
In all, 38 players were able to better par, while 11 matched it.
But it was Price and Beck who ran off seven birdies each to grab the lead.
"The conditions were good and the wind laid down toward the end of the round," said Price, a three-time major winner whose only Champions victory came last April at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
"My game has been pretty good this year. It seems like one part of my game was missing before, but in the last two weeks it has come together. That's a good feeling for me."
Price shot 32 on the back nine, with birdies from inside 15 feet on Nos. 11, 12 and 14, and he two-putted the par-5 15th for another birdie.
Beck, a longtime PGA Tour player, is trying to return to form. He regained conditional playing status at Q-school last November and is making his first start.
Always upbeat, Beck said his comeback will happen.
"I'm feeling confident and I've been playing well," said Beck, winless over the last four seasons.
Most of the attention centered on Couples, the hottest player on any tour, and he didn't disappoint - initially. He birdied the first two holes and then hit a wall, mostly due to poor drives which forced him to play from the rough several times.
"I played the par 5s 4-under, and those are the holes I needed to play well," said Couples. "I didn't drive the ball poorly but I missed (tee shots) in the rough and then hit second shots 30 feet from the hole because I couldn't make the shot stop."
It was on the 540-yard, par-5 No. 12 where Couples made his move. His drive left him 240 yards from the hole, and a crisply struck 5-iron nestled to within eight feet of the cup. He sank the eagle putt, jumping from 2-under to 4-under.
A follow-up birdie three holes later put Couples within striking distance of his third consecutive Champions win with two rounds left.
"The leader board is very good," said Couples. "It was important for me to be close. I'm in good shape."