NAPLES, Fla. – Fred Couples completed the place he began Saturday — within the lead on the Chubb Classic introduced by SERVPRO.
But the two-time winner in Naples didn’t accomplish that as emphatically as the primary round. And he has loads of firm.
Robert Karlsson, a Swede with 11 European Tour wins and a pair of European Ryder Cup appearances, has a share with Couples at 12-under 132 on Tiburón Golf Club’s Black Course.
Couples, who set the course file with a 9-under 63 Friday, was nowhere close to that sharp Saturday – a minimum of so far as making birdies. He parred the primary 10 holes earlier than lastly getting a birdie to drop on No. 11, then gave that again with a bogey on No. 12. But he got here proper again with a birdie on No. 13, then completed with back-to-back birdies to tie Karlsson.
“I just didn’t make many birdies or hit any really, really good shots — but finished strong, and I’m tied with Robert with a handful of guys very, very close,” stated Couples, 61, who hasn’t gained on tour since 2017.
“It was a good birdie on the last. I didn’t hit the ball poorly, you’ve just got to get it in the right spots. … It got exciting out there, and it got bunched up. Someone at 8-under could shoot 7- or 8-under and still win. No one is really out of it, that’s for sure.”
Karlsson got here in with a 66 late Friday, then matched it Saturday. He was 6 beneath for the round with 5 holes to play, however made a bogey and parred three of them earlier than birdieing No. 18.
Karlsson arrived on the town early to take a look at the brand new event course and that’s been transfer.
“It has definitely helped, definitely for the tee shots,” he stated. “I put in a bit of extra work and kind of hitting some of the low tee balls, which is useful here. There’s a bit of wind and a lot of trees protecting the fairways, so if you can keep it underneath the tree line, it’s quite easy; you can take a bit of the wind out, which is nice.”
Three-time champion Bernhard Langer, U.S. Ryder Cup captain and part-time Naples resident Steve Stricker, and Monday qualifier Alex Cejka are all one behind. Cejka made seven birdies in his final 11 holes in a 65, the bottom of the day.
“Everything is wide open, so it just depends who is hot,” stated Langer, who rallied from a double-bogey on No. 3 with six birdies and is 4 off Hale Irwin’s tour file of 45 profession victories.
Stricker grabbed the lead with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, however bogeyed No. 17 after which needed to stand up and down for par on the par-5 18th.
“This course if you get it going in the right direction, you can really shoot a nice round like Freddie did (a 63 on Friday),” Stricker stated. “You’ve got to kind of expect that somebody may do that (Sunday), maybe two or three or four shots back, putting up a good round.”
“I think for the leaders, the guys up around the lead, you’re going to have to play a good round and maybe shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under and see what that does for you.”
Cejka is making an attempt to develop into the primary Monday qualifier to win on the PGA Tour Champions since Doug Barron on the 2019 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.
“I’m just happy to be out here,” Cejka stated. “I’ve been waiting many, many years to finally qualify here to this Tour. I’m having fun. It’s a blast. I mean, it’s a great group of guys here, three rounds, no cut, perfect golf courses.”
Karlsson, 51, and Cejka, a 50-year-old from Germany, don’t have the title recognition of Couples, Stricker or Langer.
“It’s enough to worry about my own ball, I’m pretty sure,” Karlsson stated. “Look, I’ve done this before. Even though I’m not very well-known in America, I’ve had a few chances in Europe and won a few tournament in Europe, so I know when I get lost in what players around me are doing, it’s very hard.
“So my focus for (Sunday) is just to focus on my own golf ball and to go out and play and enjoy and also take all the pressure off.”