CARY, N.C. — Russ Cochran topped the SAS Championship leaderboard Friday in his return from a back injury, hitting all hit all 18 greens in regulation and shooting a 6-under 66.
Cochran, the 2010 tournament winner, is making his first start since the U.S. Senior Open in July.
“I came here hoping to finish the tournament really,” Cochran said. “But I fell into a great mode and played a good, solid round. Maybe I need more time off, I don’t know.
“Of course, when you’re playing well, you feel like you could do it all the time,” Cochran said. “But I’ve got to give myself a lot of room and be very, very patient and realize that I haven’t been in the heat in a long time. I haven’t played much less been in the heat. I’ll be pretty calm (Saturday), I think.”
Steve Pate, Andrew Magee, Fred Funk and Jay Don Blake were a stroke back. Funk, the Insperity Championship winner in May, missed a birdie putt on 18 by inches that would have given him a share of the lead.
“I had a really efficient front nine,” said Funk, who made the turn with a 30. “I got everything out of that front nine. Obviously, shooting 5 under’s great. I’m playing really good. I’m playing solid, close to playing really, really good, and it’s more — it’s fun just to play.”
Magee extended his streak without a three-putt to 190 holes, the third-longest run on the Champions Tour this year.
Defending champion Kenny Perry and Bernard Langer topped a group at 68.
Neal Lancaster, from Smithfield, shot a 72 in his debut on the 50-and-over tour. He won the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic for his lone PGA Tour title.