Tom Wargo and Russ Cochran opened the first Champions Tour stop in Canada in eight years by tying the course record at Club de Golf Fontainebleau in Blainville, Que., with a seven-under 65.
Wargo actually shot below his age to get the quick start out of the blocks. John Cook, the 1983 Canadian Open champion, Joey Sindelar, Jay Don Blake, James Mason, Tom Purtzer and Jay Haas are just one shot back. Six others opened with 67.
Fan favourite Fred Couples posted a 69 to stay within striking distance.
Quebec pro Daniel Talbot is the leading Canadian after opening with a 70, while Victoria’s Jim Rutledge came in with 71. Yvan Beauchemin (72) and Dave Barr (74) will have some work to do if they are to get back into contention.
Starting his day on the 10th tee, Wargo, 67, was five-under at the turn thanks, in part, to birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th, a stretch of holes that winds around a large lake and has been dubbed the “Hat Trick” this week.
“It’s always nice to get out of the gate because you get settled into a little more of a routine,” said Wargo, who added he will be retiring in the near future.
After his performance Friday, he may want to rethink those plans.
“I’m just piddling around trying to make some beer money,” he said. “When you’re 67, you’re down the other side of that hill pretty fast and I want to go on to some other things with my life before I hit the bottom of that hill.”
“I’m going to put in a tomato patch, with a few watermelons and some sweet corn,” he said. “I went to my class reunion a little while ago, the 50th. I found out there are there are two parts of life – young and skinny then old and fat.”
Cochran, who used to caddy for Wargo in Kentucky, said the crowd got into the first round in Montreal.
“The enthusiasm of the tournament, it’s just been unbelievable. You can feel it. I was the second group off and I went down to the range early to get a little work in, and the stands were full,” he said.
“That was unbelievable. People are on pretty much every hole and there were some big crowds checking the hall-of-famers out, and some of the future hall-of-famers, as well,” added Cochran, the 2009 rookie of the year on the Champions Tour.
After a bogey on the par four 11th, his second hole of the day, Cochran got down to business with birdies on three of his the final five holes to close out his front side. He made four birdies on his inbound nine, including the par four eighth where he sunk a 15-footer.
“The course is in perfect condition,” Cochran said. “Any time you get a golf course in real good shape people find a way to shoot low.”
Couples was even par after six holes before making an eagle on the par five seventh to jump start his day. At one point, he was four under, but gave one back with a bogey on the par three 17th.
“It was good but not great. There’s going to be hot rounds everywhere. I’m way behind, but if I can come out and shoot five or six under (Saturday), then I’ll have a shot on Sunday,” said Couples, who has established a rapport with the Montreal fans.
“That was the fun part,” said Couples. “They’ve supported the tournament and this will be one of the best tournaments we have on the Champions Tour.
“The fans coming out make the whole event for me. I can speak for most of the players that when you come out and there is 20,000 people on a Friday, that’s a lot of fun.”