Cary, NC – Russ Cochran fired a 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead of the SAS Championship.
Cochran won this title in 2010.
Andrew Magee, Steve Pate, Boeing Classic winner Jay Don Blake and Fred Funk are knotted in second place at 5-under 67 at Prestonwood Country Club.
Defending champion Kenny Perry, who earned his first Champions Tour win here last year, despite the death of his sister Kay on the Saturday night of the tournament, carded a 4-under 68 on Friday.
Perry is tied for sixth place with Bernhard Langer, Gene Sauers, Allen Doyle and Gary Hallberg.
Cochran, who has been out of action since mid-July with a back injury, started on the 10th tee Friday. He broke into red figures at the par-4 14th when he hit a 7-iron to six feet.
After a par at 15, Cochran hit a pitching-wedge to 14 feet to set up birdie at the 16th. He made it two in a row at the par-5 17th. Cochran knocked his second on the fringe with a 3-iron, then hit a poor chip to 20 feet. The poor shot didn't matter as Cochran poured in the birdie putt to reach 3-under par.
"I kind of got away with one," admitted Cochran.
He parred the next three around the turn and got to 4-under at the par-3 third. Cochran hit a 5-iron to six feet and made the putt. He parred his next three, but finished well to get sole possession of first.
At the par-5 seventh, Cochran laid up with his second and hit a sand-wedge to 10 feet. He drained that putt and tallied his last birdie with a tap-in birdie at eight.
Cochran hit a beautiful 8-iron to two feet for his final birdie and the first- round lead.
"I was pretty smooth out there, I got the ball in play for the most part," said Cochran, who hit all 18 greens in regulation on Friday. "I missed maybe two or three fairways, but I felt like I had pretty good control."
It has been a rough campaign for the 2011 Senior Open Champion. Cochran injured his back and hasn't played since he withdrew from the U.S. Senior Open.
"It kind of starts in the thoracic area, lots of spurs, lots of calcification, and the mid back just completely locks up," said Cochran. "And then when it locks up, all the muscles around your shoulder and everything gets locked up, especially on the left side. It kind of moves down the spine to your lower back and you start pulling those rib muscles and stuff."
No one is more surprised than Cochran to be in this position.
"I hadn't played hardly any rounds, I think four rounds since middle of July and a couple 9-hole rounds, and came here, you know, hoping to finish the tournament," said Cochran. "Maybe I need more time off, I don't know."
NOTES: Cochran owns three Champions Tour victories, including this event in 2010, the Songdo Championship the same year and last season's Senior Open Championship...Willie Wood, who has won two of the last three events on the Champions Tour, shot a 3-under 69 in round one...Joey Sindelar withdrew on Friday.