SAN FRANCISCO -- It's too early to tell if Bernhard Langer can make a weekend run to steal the Charles Schwab Cup points title away from heavily favored Kenny Perry.
The only way Perry can lose the title and the accompanying $1 million annuity that goes with it is for Langer to win the Schwab Cup Championship this weekend at TPC Harding Park and finish tied for fifth or worse himself.
The status of that after Thursday's opening round of the Champions Tour's climactic event is that it's still not out of the realm of possibility. Langer shot a 4-under 67 and was tied for fifth, four strokes out of the lead. Playing alongside Langer, Perry shot a 68 and was tied for eighth.
Clearly, the odds are still against Langer. For now, anyway, what's shaping up is a highly competitive senior season finale led after Day 1 by a 54-year-old Australian named, appropriately enough, Peter Senior.
A nonwinner in his fourth season on the Champions circuit, Senior made nine birdies and an eagle to counter three bogeys on the par-71 Harding layout for a fairly spectacular 8-under 63. David Frost, who was in the season-long points hunt until last week, was second after a 64.
The ever-popular Fred Couples was two shots back, and Mark O'Meara was fourth with a 66. After trying seasons in which neither scored a tour victory, both Couples and O'Meara would love nothing more than to win this event and walk away with the $440,000 first-place payday.
Couples, arguably the top draw on the 50-and-over circuit, also would love to further cement his Harding Park legacy. He served as captain for the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team here in 2009 and was in the hunt in the Schwab Cup two years ago before fading to seventh.
Couples isn't sure if he's up to it, though. He hasn't been playing much golf of late -- he once again served as captain for a third straight U.S. Presidents Cup win last month -- and he's currently combating familiar spinal woes.
"My neck to my back is crazy," Couples said. "I would rather have a back problem than a neck problem -- that much I'm finding out -- but now I've got them both. I can swing, but my neck's really killing me."
It didn't show in his round, though. Other than a bogey on the second hole and a double bogey on the eighth, Couples had everything working. Now it's a question of whether he can sustain it.
"I hit the ball really solid," he said. "I love the course, which helps."
Most players were loving Harding on a calm, gorgeous day with softer greens than they'd experienced in practice rounds. Only eight players in the 30-man field failed to shoot under par.
Senior was at 8 under through 12 holes and looked like he might threaten to break 60. He admitted he thought about it.
"When I birdied 11 and 12, I was counting the easy holes that I could possibly birdie coming in," he said. "As soon as I thought about it, I made bogey and it went straight out the window."