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Spittle two back of leaders at Charles Schwab Cup

Rod Spittle

Sang Tan

Rod Spittle of Niagara Falls, Ont., is two strokes off the lead after the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Spittle had a pair of birdies and a bogey on Thursday for an opening round 70 at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco and trails co-leaders Jay Haas and Fred Couples.

Haas had four birdies and a single bogey while Couples, the U.S. Presidents Cup captain, had six birdies and three birdies in cold, challenging conditions.

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"The rain is not as bad as the rain and the wind. That makes it pretty difficult," said Haas, who will be an assistant under Couples at the Presidents Cup later this month.

"The last few days kind of teased us a little bit. Just the cool, the wind, the rain, makes this place pretty difficult. all just does not go very far out here, so we're hitting one or two clubs more than maybe we would somewhere else where it would be above room temperature."

Couples, a winner in two of his last five starts on the Champions Tour including a seven-shot romp two weeks ago, got off to a quick start with birdies on five of the first nine holes and held a two-stroke lead midway through the back nine before running into trouble in the wet, windy conditions. He bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14 then added another bogey on the 17th to fall a stroke behind Haas. He recovered on the 18th with a 10-foot birdie putt to regain a share of the lead.

Haas, whose only victory this season came at the 3M Championship in Minnesota in late July, had a more consistent round. His only stumble came on the par-3 11th when he flew the green with his tee shot. He made up for it with birdies on 16 and 17 to take a brief one-stroke lead.

"He's spectacular. I always say he's a golfing genius. He's kind of just got it," said Haas of Couples. "When he's healthy, he has a great work ethic."

David Frost of South Africa and American Michael Allen are one stroke back at 2-under. Frost eagled the 525-yard par-5 ninth, then birdied No. 10 to get to 5 under, but dropped back with bogeys on Nos. 11, 13 and 14.

Tom Lehman, attempting to become the first to win player of the year honors on the PGA, Nationwide and Champion tours, is also tied at 1-under par while Mark Calcavecchia, number two in the chase for the $1 million annuity, had an even par 71 after a pair of double bogeys muddled his round.

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Peter Senior (71), John Cook (73) and Russ Cochran (74) - the three other players with a mathematical chance of surpassing Lehman - are within six shots of the lead.

Only seven of the 30 players broke par on the picturesque course.

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