Snoqualmie, WA (Sports Network) - Mark Calcavecchia opened his title defense in grand fashion Friday with a 7-under 65 and the first-round lead of the Boeing Classic.
Calcavecchia toppled Russ Cochran in a playoff last year, but on Friday, he collected an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys. His final bogey in round one came on the last hole.
Steve Pate, Jeff Sluman, Jay Don Blake, Kirk Triplett and Eduardo Romero are knotted in second at 4-under 68 at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
The tournament was dealt a blow early on when local favorite Fred Couples, who won this year's Senior British Open, withdrew after his opening tee shot. Couples tweaked his chronic back injury and walked off after just that one shot.
"It's a tough break for the tourney, losing him. He's our star," Calcavecchia said of Couples. "Everybody loves Fred, especially here in Seattle, so it was a tough break for the tournament."
Calcavecchia appears ready to be the star for the second year in a row.
He broke into red figures with a 15-foot birdie putt at the second. Calcavecchia knocked a pitching-wedge to six feet to set up birdie at the fifth, then kicked in a short birdie putt at No. 7.
Calcavecchia's round really got going at the par-5 eighth. He hit a 4-iron 20 feet past the flagstick and poured in the eagle putt to move to 5-under par.
"Eagles are great, they definitely help, but I was already 3-under at the time," said the defending champion. "Had that not gone in, I still would have made birdie and been 4-under, so 4-under, 5-under, it's not that big a difference in terms of -- it was only the eighth hole of the tournament. It went in, which was great."
At the 10th, Calcavecchia hit a pitching-wedge to three feet for an easy birdie. He ran home a 15-footer for birdie at No. 12, then missed the green short en route to a bogey at the par-3 13th.
Calcavecchia got back on track immediately. He reached the green off the tee at the short, par-4 14th, but ran his 20-foot eagle try five feet by the cup. Calcavecchia holed the birdie putt coming back to reach 7-under par.
He made an easy birdie at the par-5 15th and was cruising at 8-under. Calcavecchia stumbled a bit on the way into the clubhouse. He converted a tough 7-footer for par at 17, but couldn't escape bogey at the last. Calcavecchia drove into a fairway bunker at the par-5 closing hole and found sand again by the green.
"I'm sure I'll bitch to my wife when I call her up on the way home for about two seconds," Calcavecchia said of his bogey at 18. "And then she'll tell me to shut up and that'll be fine. I'm happy with my round."
Willie Wood, who won last week's Dick's Sporting Goods Open, Brad Faxon, Tom Kite, Joel Edwards, Rod Spittle and Jim Gallagher, Jr. share seventh at 3- under 69.
NOTES: Calcavecchia won this year's Montreal Championship...Bernhard Langer struggled to a 1-over 73 on Friday...Duffy Waldorf and Gene Sauers made their Champions Tour debuts on Friday. Sauers shot a 1-under 71 and Waldorf had a 3- over 75.