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Haas & Couples Tied for Lead in Charles Schwab Championship


Jay Haas and Fred Couples carded 3-under 68s to take a share of the lead after 18 holes of the Charles Schwab Championship. The Champions Tour's season-ending tournament is being played at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

On Thursday, Haas posted four birdies and a bogey en route to his opening effort. Couples had a much more colorful scorecard. The 52-year-old from Seattle soared up to the top of the leaderboard through nine holes with five birdies to make the turn in 5-under 31.

The inward nine was another matter, as Couples, after pars on the first three holes, bogeyed three of the next five. A birdie on the par-4 closer brought him into a tie with Haas.

Haas managed to do better than the rest of the players on a chilly day when the scores soared. "Obviously it was a very difficult day out there as the scores are indicating. I played very well. Hit a lot of good iron shots today, and that kind of kept me in there," said Haas, who will be an assistant captain - along with John Cook - for U.S. captain Couples in next month's Presidents Cup in Australia.

"Hit a lot of greens. Greens were firm starting off. They softened up just a little bit with what rain we've had. Just the cool, the wind, the rain, makes this place pretty difficult. Ball just does not go very far out here, so we're hitting one or two clubs more than maybe we would somewhere elsewhere would it be above room temperature I guess you would say."

A stroke back after 69s are Californian Michael Allen and South African David Frost, while another shot behind are Canada's Rod Spittle and Americans Kenny Perry and Tom Lehman.

Allen, who grew up as a junior golfer playing at Harding Park, agreed with Haas's assessment of the adverse conditions. "It was a tough day. The rain started coming, the wind, then it would get nice. Up and down.

"Overall, the course played beautiful but pretty long," added the 52-year-old, who was born in nearby San Mateo. "It was a good battle out there. I fought it out. I didn't play my best coming in. Made a few putts to hang in there, so good to be here."

Lehman is in the driver's seat to win the Charles Schwab Cup, the season-long points' race that will be decided Sunday at the conclusion of this week's $2.5 million tournament.

Two-time defending Cup champion Cook, who opened with a 2-over 73 Thursday, needs to win the $440,000 top prize this week to unseat Lehman, who must win or finish second or better to assure himself the $1 million bonus prize that goes to the overall Cup winner. He has a 382-point lead over runner-up Mark Calcavecchia in points.

On Wednesday, Lehman told reporters he was focused on the task at hand. "Anytime you start thinking about the result before you actually get on the playing field, you're in big trouble," said Lehman. "And that's all those 'what ifs' do is get you thinking about the results."

Calcavecchia shot even-par 71 and is tied for eighth with Tom Pernice, Jr., Joey Sindelar, Bernhard Langer, Jay Don Blake and Peter Senior. Right behind after 72s are Chien Soon Lu, Loren Roberts and Corey Pavin, while tied with Cook for 17th after 73s are Nick Price, David Eger and Olin Browne.

Rounding out the 30-player field - who gained entry into the championship through Cup point totals - are Mark Wiebe, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Russ Cochran, who all posted 3-over 74s on a 50-degree and occasionally rainy day in the Bay Area.

John Huston and Jeff Sluman shot 75, Chip Beck and Mark O'Meara 76, Brad Bryant a 77, and Tommy Armour III was in last place after a 78.

For all the scorecards, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboards/current/r489/.