LUTZ, Fla. (AP) — Russ Cochran isn’t hitting his driver well. You would just never know it by his first-round score at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
Cochran shot a 7-under 64 to take a two-stroke lead over John Cook and Jay Don Blake at the Champions Tour event even though the 52-year-old left-hander hit only 10 of 14 fairways and averaged just 270 yards off the tee.
“I came over here and played in the pro-am (Thursday) and didn’t really drive it that well,” Cochran said. “Hit it in the water two or three times and just didn’t feel as good over (the ball).”
“I was teasing my pro-am partners yesterday. They were going to see a personal record of me hitting it in the hazard, I thought.”
Though Cochran wasn’t hazard free, he somehow managed a bogey-free round, starting it with birdies on Nos. 10-12.
His drive on No. 12 landed in the rough and his second shot found a greenside bunker. But Cochran hit a wedge to about 18 inches for a tap-in birdie.
Those first three holes gave him confidence and a cushion.
“It let me play a little more comfortable given the fact that I drove it so poorly Thursday,” Cochran said. “It helped me erase those memories and get started on track.”
Cochran, who is fifth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, has finished in the top 10 in four of his five Champions Tour events this season and won twice in 2010. His lone PGA Tour win came at the 1991 Centel Western Open, where he overcame a five-stroke deficit over eight holes to beat Greg Norman.
“You’re going to have to step up on these holes and make a quality swing and hit a quality shot,” Cochran said. “I think a lot of guys out here are right-handers, obviously, and they’re hitting it down the left side and cutting it. There are just some really unbelievably tricky shots out there.”
Cook and Blake shot 66s and were a stroke ahead of Kenny Perry, who birdied five holes on his back nine after shooting 1 over on the front, making his Outback Pro-Am debut in his third Champions Tour tournament.
“I knew I needed to make birdies,” Perry said. “I always thought people always would tell me, ‘8 under is going to win the tournament.’ Well, Russ is already 7 (under), you know, so I’m thinking that’s not going to work here.
“I’ve got to figure out a way to get close and stay in the mix a little bit,” Perry said. “I can’t get too far behind here, so (I’m) very excited with the start.”