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Spittle two shots behind Cochran after first round of Montreal Championship

06/22/2012 05:48 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT
SAINTE-JULIE, Que. - The Montreal Championship has changed locations yet Russ Cochran and Canadian Rod Spittle are among the senior golfers who have adjusted quite nicely to the event's new venue.

Cochran opened with a 6-under-par 66 on Friday for a two-shot lead over Spittle and three others at the US$1.8-million tournament, the only Canadian stop on the PGA's Champions Tour.

Spittle, from Niagara Falls, Ont., was tied with tour money leader Michael Allen, Jerry Pate and 2010 Montreal Championship winner Larry Mize at 68.

Cochran birdied each of the four par-5 holes on the 6,950-yard Vercheres course at Richelieu Valley Golf Club.

"I think that's a big deal but you know the fairways are hard to hit on the par-fives," said Cochran, who had seven birdies and recorded just one bogey after a three-putt on the par-3 13th hole. "You've got crosswinds and you've got to take them diagonally over bunkers and then hit the fairway. So you've got to shape the ball right."

Cochran shared the first-round lead with Tom Wargo two years ago in the inaugural edition of the 54-hole tournament, which was previously held at Fontainebleau Golf Club in Blainville, Que.

The Kentucky native gave the tournament's new home an enthusiastic endorsement.

"I heard nothing but good things about it and I think people see the possibilities in the course setup," Cochran said. "I think there could be a ton of people involved in the finish of the golf tournament."

"I hope that's not the case," said Spittle, who had the top finish of the six Canadians in the field of 81. "I hope there's one guy about six shots ahead, but I would think so. I really didn't look at the leaderboards today but it looks like kind of a normal first round. And I would think that most of the other guys are going to probably tell you that by the time you get to Sunday afternoon and you've got a 10-, or 12-, 13-, 14-under, it will be the normal half a dozen guys in there.

"If somebody hasn't run away with it, I assume it will be bunched together, absolutely."

Spittle shot a tournament-record 62 on the final day of last year's event.

"I was trying to see if I could find that scorecard from last year and see if it would count this year," Spittle joked.

Canadian Claude Tremblay had the first hole-in-one in the tournament's three-year history Friday. The Blainville, Que., native used a 19-degree hybrid for his ace on the 224-yard 13th hole that delighted the partisan gallery.

"I have mixed emotions," said Tremblay, who finished with a five-over 77 despite what he said was his seventh ace. "I'm happy about my hole-in-one but I'm really disappointed in my round. I expected to do much better than that."

Pate, who won the U.S. and Canadian Opens in 1976, also had seven birdies, tying Cochran for the most on the day. He felt he played extremely well, particularly considering that he was taking part in just his fourth tour event of the season.

"I only play about six or eight times so I don't play enough to keep my short game sharp, and that's by design," said Pate, who has two career wins in the PGA's over-50 golf tour, his last in 2008.

"I choose not to play as much as I used to, but I love the game. I love to come out here. I especially love to experience coming to Canada. I've always loved Canada. I won the Canadian Open in my rookie year in Windsor and I love the golf courses."

Hall of Famer Hale Irwin and Mark Calcavecchia are among 11 tied for sixth place at 3-under 69.

Defending champion John Cook finished with a 1-under 71.

Marc Girouard of St. Sauveur, Que., also shot a 71. He was the only other Canadian to break par.

Jim Rutledge of Victoria finished with a 4-over 76, and Yvan Beauchemin of Louiseville, Que., shot a 77. Jean Laforce of St. Gabriel de Brandon, Que., was 8-over at 80.

Mark O'Meara withdrew Thursday after aggravating a torn cartilage injury to his lower right ribs during a pro-am. Tournament organizers announced this week that Nick Price, Fred Couples, Kenny Perry and Tom Lehman had withdrawn.

Price and Couples pulled out because of injuries and Perry withdrew for personal reasons. Lehman, who is second to Bernhard Langer in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, also pulled out for personal reasons.

Langer is competing this weekend in the BMW International Open in Cologne.

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