LUTZ, Fla. (AP) — That putting tip that Mark O’Meara received from Tiger Woods on the 10th green at Augusta National last week sure paid off.
O’Meara shot a 6-under 65 on Friday, taking a one-stroke lead over Mike Reid and defending champion Nick Price in the first round of the Champions Tour’s Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
“I got a little bit of a putting less from Tiger last week at Augusta,” O’Meara said. “I was kind of rakey on my putts, so he wanted me to swing kind of two degrees more out to the right. I didn’t putt that great at Augusta, but today I putted a lot better.”
Fred Couples, trying to match the Champions Tour record for victories in consecutive starts of four set by Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1987, opened with a 71 – his first score higher than 68 in 13 senior rounds. The 50-year-old Couples is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Masters.
Woods was caught by an Associated Press photographer with cell phone in hand last week, taking a video of O’Meara’s putting stroke. The two friends played a practice round before the Masters, where O’Meara missed the cut and Woods finished tied fourth in his return to golf.
O’Meara played much better on Friday, starting no the back side at TPC Tampa Bay and making the turn at even before a string of six birdies in eight holes beginning at the par-3 second.
“Anytime you do six birdies in nine holes on the front nine, you’ll take it,” O’Meara said. “I putted well, though, and anyone, on any tour, needs to putt well to win.”
Two-time champion Tom Watson followed his memorable weekend at the Masters with a 67, and was among a group of eight players within two shots of the lead. Joining him at 4 under were Tom Pernice Jr., Tommy Armour III, Bernhard Langer, Russ Cochran and Tom Jenkins.
“Playing this course is like going through a minefield,” said Watson, who won the tournament in 2007 and ’08. “There are a lot of shots over the water and to keep it out of the water (needs to be) your game plan.”
Price had six birdies during his round, even though he could have been forgiven for a slow start. The defending champion wasn’t sure how he would fare after arriving late Wednesday from a family trip to Egypt.
“My swing, I feel, is still coming back over the Atlantic,” Price said before the start of the tournament. “I’d be very surprised if I contended this week.”
He’s joined at 5 under by Reid, who started his round with a double bogey but bounced back with five birdies and an eagle.
“Golf is just – it’s such an in-the-moment challenge,” Reid said. “Every time you tee the ball up, you’re going to be tested, but you hope that your of a mind to keep going forward even though you may be stumbling.”