CAP CANA, Dominican Republic (AP) — When Fred Couples joined the Champions Tour, most everyone predicted success befitting a 15-time PGA Tour winner and Masters champion.
Judging from his first four events, everyone was right.
Couples won his third straight start on the 50-and-over tour Sunday, shooting a course-record 10-under 62 at Jack Nicklaus-designed Punta Espada for a two-stroke victory over Corey Pavin in the Cap Cana Championship.
“I had a great stretch of golf in 1992,” said Couples, who won three tournaments, including the Masters, in a two-month period then, “but I must say that these four weeks on the Champions Tour I’m not missing many shots.”
Couples made 11 birdies in the final round and finished the tournament at 21-under 195. Pavin closed with a 66.
“It was an unbelievable day,” said Couples, who made five birdies in a row from the second through sixth hole. “The first six or seven holes, there was an eagle, birdies and putts going in from everywhere.”
The 50-year-old Couples is the first player in Champions Tour history to win three of his first four tournaments, and the eighth to win three straight starts, leaving him one behind the tour record set by Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1987.
The ACE Group Classic and Toshiba Classic winner after finishing second in the season-opening event in Hawaii, Couples hasn’t had a score higher than 68 and is 77 under in 12 senior rounds. He earned $240,000 for a four-event total of $931,000.
Couples began the day two strokes behind Pavin and one back of Nick Price.
Pavin was the victim of a bad break when his second shot at the par 4 14th hole hit a greenside sprinkler head and bounced 60 yards over the green into a waste area. He was unable to recover and made a bogey, losing the lead for the first time since the seventh hole.
“I did a lot of things that were very good out there today,” said Pavin, who made an eagle with a chip-in at the par-5 sixth hole to tie for the lead, five birdies and one bogey, “and one bad break does not make a tournament, but it doesn’t help any.”
Russ Cochran, never a factor in the chase for first place, shot a 67 to finish third at 14 under. Price, who shot himself out of contention with a watery approach shot and double bogey at the 15th hole, had a 71 to tie for fourth at 13 under with Tom Pernice Jr. (67) and Bernhard Langer (67).
Couples, Price and Pavin lit up a defenseless course for the third day in a row.
In the opening nine holes, they made 11 birdies and an eagle.
Couples ran off five more birdies in a row from the 11-15 and maintained a one-shot lead over Pavin when both birdied the par-5 15th. Of Couples’ birdies, only one came from outside 30 feet and eight came from inside 15 or less.
Couples will play the PGA Tour’s Houston Open next week, then head to Augusta National for the Masters.