KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii – Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples broke away with birdies on the 17th to top the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
Facing benign conditions for the 35th season opener for the Champions Tour, Langer shot an 8-under 64 to get to 14 under for the tournament. Couples caught him with his second straight 65.
Mark O'Meara was just one stroke back of the leaders. O’Meara was 7 under after seven holes and finished with a 65.
David Frost, who lost to John Cook in a playoff here last year, pulled into contention with a 64. Frost one-putted 10 times.
Cook is two back and shares fourth with Jeff Sluman (66) and Steve Elkington (67). First-round leader Rocco Mediate was 1 over on the back nine and fell into a tie for seventh with Tom Lehman (66) at 11 under.
Langer and O’Meara tied the tournament record with 6-under 30s on the front nine. Langer two-putted three of the par 5s for birdies and sank a 30-footer at No. 8. His other birdie putts were inside 12 feet until he drained a 15-footer at the 17th. Couples caught him with a 20-footer on the same hole.
Couples, 54, is one of nine World Golf Hall of Famers in the 41-player field featuring major champions from the last five years, other tournament winners in the last two seasons and sponsor invitees. Couples has won nine senior events since 2010, including the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in November. He has two top-five finishes here the last four years.
But even he doesn’t have any idea of how low he will have to go to win at a pristine Hualalai Course with barely any wind.
”The scores here are crazy every year,” Couples said. ”To be honest, the only time I pay attention is Sunday when I’m done.”
Couples had 10 top 10s in 15 starts last year. Langer hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since July, but the last of his 18 senior wins came in April.
”There is definitely frustration,” he said, ”especially because I was leading almost every week at some point. I’m ready for more wins, hopefully.”
Langer, who won his fifth money title last year, injured his thumb Thursday and had to drop out of the pro-am. He is 33 under in his last six rounds at Hualalai, while Couples is 31 under.