PITTSBURGH (AP) — The heat is on at the Senior Players Championship.
Fred Couples is taking advantage of it.
With sweltering temperatures easing the stiffness in his chronically bad back, the defending champion birdied the final three holes Friday for a 7-under 63 and the second-round lead at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
Couples, the winner last year at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., reached 11 under on a day when the temperature reached 96 degrees with a heat index of 105.
“The heat helps,” said Couples, the 1992 Masters champion. “I have some heat on my back to start the day, and then being hot and humid certainly was a good thing.”
Couples has complained about stiffness all week, saying his back is sore after receiving his regular anti-inflammatory injections two weeks ago. His game hasn’t shown it. Couples has one bogey through two rounds, has birdied the two par-5 holes both days and has hit 36 of 38 greens.
He birdied four of the first six holes and closed the same way, with birdies at 13, 16, 17 and 18.
“It was a great day full of a lot of good shots, but a couple long putts were made,” Couples said. “Any time you’re going to shoot a low round on a course that I think is like this, you’re going to have to do that.”
He won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in March for his seventh victory on the 50-and-over tour.
Joe Daley was a stroke back after a 64. He leads the field with 16 birdies during the tournament thus far.