SAN FRANCISCO - In pursuit of Bernhard Langer and the $1 million annuity to the winner of the Schwab Cup points race on the Champions Tour, Fred Couples needed a huge day of catch-up Saturday at TPC Harding Park in the third round of the Schwab Cup Championship.
There was a spectacular score out of the 11:12 a.m. third-round pairing, but unfortunately for Couples it was delivered by his fellow competitor, Michael Allen, who shot a flawless, 10-under 61. Couples, his back and left hip aching, shot 70 and fell nine strokes behind Allen, who at 14-under 199 takes a one-shot lead over John Cook into the final round. Bernhard Langer is lurking, four shots behind, but with Couples needing to win this week, Langer pretty much has assured himself the points bounty.
"Michael drove it long and straight and hit a lot of good irons, made some putts," Couples said. "I don't know if he could have shot 62. He missed a couple. It was phenomenal. I think lift, clean and place is helping, obviously, but I didn't see those scores on Wednesday. I'm flabbergasted. That was as good a round as you can play."
Allen's score eclipsed Harding Park's competitive course record of 64, shot by Ken Venturi (in the 1950s) and Colin Montgomerie (2005). For Allen, who grew up playing at nearby Olympic Club (where he is still a member) and who had competed at Harding many years ago, it was about as sweet a day as a golfer could enjoy.
"Playing with Fred you do get a crowd and it's always a little more fun to play with a crowd around," Allen said. "Coming up nine, everybody's [hollering] 'Fred, Fred, Fred. I'm like, 'What about me?' "
Allen, actually had a decent crew in tow, cheering him on. "I really haven't been around the Olympic Club for 20 years, but I still pay my dues," Allen said. "I've had so many good friends through all these years. It was nice. It was wonderful to see them come out and yell for me a little."
Couples was obviously not in as buoyant a mood as Allen after their round, but he wasn't disconsolate, either. "I'm tired and sore and ready to play one more round," Couples said. "Try and shoot lower than what I've been shooting. They're playing some great golf. Today, even if I could have shot three- or four-under, I still would have been in the same spot I'm in. My back and hip are killing me. But I don't know if I felt great, if I could still be 10- or 12-under."
Allen pleasantly described his day in the interview room, but would have rather been somewhere else.
"I want to keep playing right now," Allen said. "Let's play 36."
-- Bill Fields