CARY — Russ Cochran has played at least pretty well every time he has been to Prestonwood Country Club.
But on each of his previous four trips to the SAS Championship – including his first-place finish in 2011 – he has been at least three shots worse in the second round than in the first.
Not this time.
The Kentuckian, who won here two years ago, shot a second straight 66 on another cloudy, moist day, finishing two shots ahead of a group of three men at 134 going into the final round of the 13th edition of the event.
Final-round competition of the PGA Champions Tour event will begin 10 a.m. Sunday
“It’s not that often where you just get in that groove where you know something good’s going to happen and you don’t look ahead,” Cochran said. “But I just felt like I was going to really shoot low and was in control of pretty much all parts of the game, especially the putter, and let it slide a little bit.
“That being said, you know, we’ve talked about kind of the way this tournament is for me. You know, I’ve been near the lead a few times and feel good about things, but you’ve got to shoot so low to win that I’ll be just like everyone else. There are five or six world-class players obviously that are right there, and I know I’ll have to really play well to win.”
Tied for second are defending champion Bernhard Langer, Kirk Triplett and David Frost, all of whom shot matching 67s in the second round.
Triplett is here for just the second time, finishing in the middle of the pack with a 215 last year.
“I think I don’t have a lot of experience with this course,” Triplett said. “What I do have is under these kind of conditions (with) soft greens is just go ahead and belt your driver or 3-wood out there and take what you get.
“The course isn’t real firm, so it’s yielding some low scores. I think maybe when the greens are firmer, some of the shelves are probably hard to get the ball close to. But the greens are soft and if you’re aggressive with the putter you can make some putts and that’s certainly what I did today. Probably the best club in my bag was the putter.”
Michael Allen is alone at 135, while Charles Schwab Cup points leader Kenny Perry is in a group of four along with Craig Stadler at 136. Tom Kite is in a group of four at 137, five strokes off the pace.
If Cochran can repeat his rounds of the first two days, someone else would have to shoot a 63 to beat him. But Cochran says he’s been doing this far too long to rest on any laurels.
“I don’t try to control golf or anything,” he said. “I think golf is a lot more random than you think. I think it comes down to looking at the shot and the lie and the yardage and all that and just try to do the best you can with it.”
Jeff Sluman, who had shot an apparent 68 on Friday, was disqualified before Saturday’s round for signing an incorrect first-round scorecard. He accidentally switched from one type of Titleist ball to another during the round and had neglected to assess himself a required four-stroke penalty before discovering the mistake early Saturday. He informed officials, leading to the automatic disqualification.