Blake off to Hot Start in Charles Schwab Championship

Defending champion Jay Don Blake fired a 6-under 64 to take the opening-round lead in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. The $2.5 million tournament, the season-ending event on the Champions Tour, began Thursday on the Cochise Course at Desert Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The 54-year-old Blake, a native of Utah who in August won the Boeing Classic, carded seven birdies and a bogey for a one-stroke lead over Gary Hallberg and two shots over Olin Browne, Bill Glasson, Jay Haas and Fred Couples.

"It's been a long time since I've been able to defend a title," Blake told reporters. "I have to admit I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect. I was just hoping to play well."

Blake, whose only win on the regular PGA Tour came in the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open but has three titles on the senior circuit, attributed his fine outing Thursday to solid play off the tee. "I drove it really well and the balls were going so far out there," he said.

"The hard part right now for me to figure out is what iron shot, whether I need to hit a hard 8 or an easy 7. Sometimes, I hit a hard 8 and it goes 175 (yards) . . . I feel like I'm making some bad swings on some of the irons because I'm a little leery of the distance it is going."

Posting 67s in the Champions Tour's season finale were Russ Cochran, Jeff Sluman, Kirk Triplett and Corey Pavin. Another shot back were Brad Bryant, Mark Calcavecchia and reigning Charles Schwab Cup champion Tom Lehman.

Bernhard Langer, who entered the tournament as the leader in the season-long Cup points' race with a 211-point edge over Lehman, had a 69. Englishman Roger Chapman, whose only two victories on the Champions Tour came in two majors this year - the Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open, was in third, 657 points behind Langer. He shot a 69.

Couples has been unable to play since his chronic bad back flared up and he was forced to withdraw after only his first shot in the Boeing Classic, which is in his hometown of Seattle. "Beginner's luck," Couples said of his first-round score. "I hit the ball solid. I'm thrilled to death to be 4-under."

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