Couples stays hot, leads by 2 in Mississippi

Saucier, MI ( - After winning last week, Fred Couples traveled to Mississippi and remained hot as he fired a 6-under 66 on Friday and grabbed a 2-shot lead after the opening round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Couples, the 2012 winner of this event, closed with a 66 last week to rally and win the Toshiba Classic. That was his 10th tour title.

Defending champion Michael Allen opened with a 4-under 68 at Fallen Oak Golf Club. He was joined in second place by Jeff Maggert, 2011 runner-up David Frost, Jay Haas and Kenny Perry.

Fred Funk and Tom Kite posted 3-under 69s in round one. They share seventh place with Duffy Waldorf, John Riegger, Roger Chapman, Anders Forsbrand and Scott Dunlap.

Couples hit a poor approach shot on the 11th and that led to a 3-putt bogey. His approach on the 12th flew straight into the hole and bounced out. He settled for an 8-foot birdie putt on the 12th.

At the par-5 13th, Couples reached the green in two and 2-putted for birdie. He made it three in a row as he birdied the 14th and Couples made it four straight birdies at the par-5 15th.

The 54-year-old stuffed his tee shot within two feet at the 17th and he kicked that in for birdie. He parred the 18th, his ninth, to make the turn at minus-4.

Couples birdied the par-5 first to take the lead by himself. After six pars in a row, he birdied the eighth to get to minus-6. Couples got up and down for par on the ninth to end two clear of the field.

"I played really well. I feel like I putted well on these greens in the past, and I made some today obviously to shoot that score," said Couples, who finished 12th here last year. "Just was good driving, made three birdies on the par-3s, which is unusual, so that was a big boost. But I felt like I hit the ball pretty solid and putted well."

Allen traded a birdie for bogey from the 13th. He jumped up the leaderboard with three birdies in a 4-hole span from the 15th.

Around the turn, Allen tripped to a bogey on the first, but erased that mistake with a birdie on the second. He grabbed a piece of second place when he birdied the sixth. Allen parred the last three holes to end there.

"I played nicely. I made a few mistakes," Allen stated. "I threw a few shots away, but overall I played nicely. Off to a good start."

Perry and Maggert both had three birdies and a bogey on both sides.

Frost had three birdies and three bogeys on his opening nine. Around the turn, he birdied three of four holes from the 11th. Frost birdied the 18th for a share of second.

Haas had two birdies and a bogey on the front side. Around the turn, he had three birdies in a 6-hole span to move into a share of second.

NOTES: When Couples won the 2010 Toshiba title, he followed with a win at the next event as well when he won the Cap Cana Championship ... This was Couples 12th straight round in the 60s, one shy of Hale Irwin's record, which he set in 1999 ... Maggert made his Champions Tour debut on Friday ... Bernhard Langer's opening 71 was just his fourth round in the 70s in 13 rounds this season.