Fred Couples, Robert Karlsson lead after second round of Chubb Classic

NAPLES, Fla. – Fred Couples finished where he started Saturday — in the lead at the Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO.

But the two-time winner in Naples didn’t do so as emphatically as the first round. And he has plenty of company.

Robert Karlsson, a Swede with 11 European Tour wins and a pair of European Ryder Cup appearances, has a share with Couples at 12-under 132 on Tiburón Golf Club’s Black Course.

Couples, who set the course record with a 9-under 63 Friday, was nowhere near that sharp Saturday – at least as far as making birdies. He parred the first 10 holes before finally getting a birdie to drop on No. 11, then gave that back with a bogey on No. 12. But he came right back with a birdie on No. 13, then finished with back-to-back birdies to tie Karlsson.

“I just didn’t make many birdies or hit any really, really good shots — but finished strong, and I’m tied with Robert with a handful of guys very, very close,” said Couples, 61, who hasn’t won on tour since 2017.

“It was a good birdie on the last. I didn’t hit the ball poorly, you’ve just got to get it in the right spots. … It got exciting out there, and it got bunched up. Someone at 8-under could shoot 7- or 8-under and still win. No one is really out of it, that’s for sure.”

Karlsson came in with a 66 late Friday, then matched it Saturday. He was 6 under for the round with five holes to play, but made a bogey and parred three of them before birdieing No. 18.

Karlsson arrived in town early to check out the new tournament course and that’s been a good move.

“It has definitely helped, definitely for the tee shots,” he said. “I put in a bit of extra work and kind of hitting some of the low tee balls, which is useful here. There’s a bit of wind and a lot of trees protecting the fairways, so if you can keep it underneath the tree line, it’s quite easy; you can take a bit of the wind out, which is nice.”

Three-time champion Bernhard Langer, U.S. Ryder Cup captain and part-time Naples resident Steve Stricker, and Monday qualifier Alex Cejka are all one behind. Cejka made seven birdies in his last 11 holes in a 65, the lowest of the day.

“Everything is wide open, so it just depends who is hot,” said Langer, who rallied from a double-bogey on No. 3 with six birdies and is four off Hale Irwin’s tour record of 45 career victories.

Stricker grabbed the lead with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, but bogeyed No. 17 and then had to get up and down for par on the par-5 18th.

“This course if you get it going in the right direction, you can really shoot a nice round like Freddie did (a 63 on Friday),” Stricker said. “You’ve got to kind of expect that somebody may do that (Sunday), maybe two or three or four shots back, putting up a good round.”

“I think for the leaders, the guys up around the lead, you’re going to have to play a good round and maybe shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under and see what that does for you.”

Cejka is trying to become the first Monday qualifier to win on the PGA Tour Champions since Doug Barron at the 2019 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

“I’m just happy to be out here,” Cejka said. “I’ve been waiting many, many years to finally qualify here to this Tour. I’m having fun. It’s a blast. I mean, it’s a great group of guys here, three rounds, no cut, perfect golf courses.”

Karlsson, 51, and Cejka, a 50-year-old from Germany, don’t have the name recognition of Couples, Stricker or Langer.

“It’s enough to worry about my own ball, I’m pretty sure,” Karlsson said. “Look, I’ve done this before. Even though I’m not very well-known in America, I’ve had a few chances in Europe and won a few tournament in Europe, so I know when I get lost in what players around me are doing, it’s very hard.

“So my focus for (Sunday) is just to focus on my own golf ball and to go out and play and enjoy and also take all the pressure off.”


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