Trailing leader Bernhard Langer by seven shots heading into the third round Saturday of the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club, Russ Cochran needed to start his round strong.
It couldn't have gone much better for this Kentucky native. It took Cochran, 55, just two holes to make up three shots and spur him on to a 7-under 63 for the day.
After a 70 Thursday followed by a 66 Friday, Cochran sits at an 11-under 199 heading into the final round. He trails only Langer at 15 under and Kenny Perry at 12 under.
"I played pretty solid golf," Cochran said Saturday after his round. "I didn't hit as good as I did [Friday], to be honest, but putted a lot better."
Cochran opened his round with a birdie on the par-4 No. 1 and followed it with an eagle on the par-5 No. 2. He said he had nearly identical putts from about 12 feet on both holes.
"I was fortunate to get the same look at two straight putts," Cochran said.
After a birdie on No. 6, Cochran caught fire on the back nine, birdieing 11, 12 and 14. On No. 15 he pulled a 3-wood into the rough, eventually leading to his only bogey of the day.
"I was kind of losing some steam," Cochran said. But he rebounded with pars on 16 and 17 before ending the day sinking a putt from about 20 feet for a birdie on No. 18.
"I had a perfect position on 18," he said. "I thought I hit a little better chip than that. But I hit a really good putt."
Cochran found himself in the rough often Saturday. He hit just 9 of 14 fairways after hitting all 14 Friday. But it's his putter that has him just four shots off the lead. Cochran needed only 29 putts Saturday.
Despite finishing tied for fourth and sixth in his past two tournaments Cochran has not won an event on the Champions Tour this year. He won two events in 2013 and has five career Champions Tour victories to go along with his one PGA Tour win in 1991.
After Saturday, Cochran knew he had putted well and characterized his driving as "sloppy." But he likes his chances heading into today.
"If you can catch a hot putter and get the ball in the right spot on the greens, there's going to be a lot of low rounds," Cochran said. "Although I like the way my game's trending, I know I'm going to have to come out and shoot a good round [today].
"I didn't expect to be in this position, so it feels great to have a shot at it."
Sean Hammond: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1466, Twitter @sean_hammond.