Couples holds lead at suspended Senior Players Championship
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Players streamed into the parking lot at Fox Chapel Golf Club on Friday afternoon even though a shining sun seemed to bode well for a tournament that has been interrupted more times than a preschool teacher.
They left in their courtesy cars and left behind a course that was under water in some places and a veritable mud pit in others.
A wicked storm battered Fox Chapel during the second round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship, rendering the course unplayable. The only thing that came close to inflicting as much damage on the proud track was the birdie fest Fred Couples staged before bad weather shut down him and the rest of the field.
Couples shot 7-under par through 11 holes to sit at 11-under through his first 29 holes here. He takes a two-stroke lead into Saturday, when the second round will resume before the third round is played, weather permitting.
First-round leader John Huston is two shots back, while Jeff Hart and Duffy Waldorf are four shots behind. Sixty-six of the 81 golfers did not complete their rounds.
“Rounds like this don't happen very often,” said Couples, who won the 2011 Senior Players Championship. “Does it matter that we're stopping? To be honest, no. I don't think we knew we were getting out of this day with any problems.”
The problem moving forward is that rain has been blitzing Fox Chapel more than Couples did when he birdied six of his final eight holes Friday.
Play was suspended around 2 p.m. after a storm dumped more rain on an already water-logged course. An hour later players were told play would not resume until 8 a.m. Saturday, even though the sun had reappeared as quickly as the storm had passed.
“We probably could have handled a slow, steady drizzle, but that came down quick. It was just buckets,” said Brian Claar, the Champions Tour's vice president of rules and competition. “Just saturated. No place for it to go.”
The skies opened up again about 5:30 p.m., and more rain is forecast for the weekend.
“We need to catch a break (Saturday),” Claar said. “Sunday is iffy but a little better. I'm still positive we'll get 72 holes in by Sunday night.”
Rain has been an issue all week, and it has turned a course that played hard and fast last year into a lengthy and mushy track where players can attack the flags.
“The course is there for the taking if you're hitting it well,” said last year's runner-up Tom Lehman, who is at 3-under with eight holes left in his second round. “The greens are slow enough where you can get more aggressive, so I'm not surprised that someone's going real low.”
It should surprise no one that Couples has gone the lowest. His strong early play is the only resemblance to last year's tournament.
Couples shot 63 in the second round last year. He is on pace to eclipse that this year, although the former Masters champion opens play Saturday facing a 60-foot putt on the par-3 third.
He would have an even bigger cushion had Huston not holed a sand wedge for an eagle on No. 15, his final hole of the day.
Couples led at the 36-hole mark last year but finished tied for fourth after back problems plagued him over the weekend. Those kinds of issues appear to be the only thing this side of rain that can slow down Couples — especially on a course that clearly suits his game.
“I like it because a lot of holes, if I feel like attacking, I can hit a driver,” Couples said. “If I don't, I can hit a 3-wood. But most of the time I'm hitting drivers because it's just so sloppy and makes the fairways a little wider.”
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