SAVANNAH -- Fred Couples dropped a hand from his club, slung it to his side and tapped the club face on a tee marker in disgust.
His shot at the par-3 17th at The Club at Savannah Harbor hung out to the right, right of the right trap, and led to a bogey. When teammate Jay Haas also made bogey at the hole, the momentum had stalled.
"It's a little sour right now," Couples said after he and Haas carded a 9-under-par 63 at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf to finish the second round 18 under.
But the fan favorites are only a shot off the pace set by the teams of Tom Purtzer/Brad Bryant and Michael Allen/David Frost.
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Couples said by the time he and Haas reach the first tee today, the memory will be extinguished. A one-shot deficit in the best-ball format could be buried with a train of birdies. Players are ready for a Sunday shootout.
"It's fun," Allen said. "You get your partner and you go out and start making birdies, because you know you've got to make a bunch. The great thing is, (Frost) is such a great putter. I know when he hits good shots, he's going to make them."
Couples and Haas are one of four teams trailing the leaders by a shot. Gil Morgan and Tom Kite moved to 18 under after combining to shoot 61 Saturday. The 65-year-old Morgan would become the Champions Tour's oldest winner with a victory today.
Bobby Clampett and two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North fired 62 and are a shot back. Jeff Sluman and Brad Faxon kept pace with an 8-under 64.
Allen is in search of his second victory in as many weeks after a 40-tournament stretch without a Champions Tour victory. Before last week, his most recent win was the 2009 Senior PGA.
He now leads the tour's Charles Schwab Cup standings and has four top-three finishes in his first six events this season.
"I've been doing things with my swing that's really helped me the last month or so," Allen said after Round 1. "But overall it's just kind of been a nice attitude and just kind of going about it in a nice way. I'm enjoying the time I'm having out here."
Couples also has a Champions Tour victory this year, having won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in March. He also contended at the Masters earlier this month before finishing tied for 12th. He said double digits under par in today's final round might be required for the Couples/Haas team to earn the win.
After shooting a tournament-best 60 on Friday, Purtzer and Bryant slipped to a 65 Saturday. The low-key pair said each played as well as they had Friday, but that the tap-in birdies enjoyed in Round 1 were missing Saturday.
"We're in great shape," Purtzer said. "We're still on top."
The final holes proved tough for the leaders Saturday.
The teams of Bryant/Purtzer and Allen/Frost did not card a birdie the final five holes. Couples and Haas played the final three holes 1 over.
But some solved the stretch. Kite and Morgan played the final five holes 3 under. Clampett holed out for eagle on the par-4 18th to reach 18 under.
Birdies are the focus of today's final round, players said, not the bruising finish Saturday.
"We've got the night off," Couples said. "When we get out there on the first tee, we won't be thinking about that."
RAPHAEL REPEAT FOR SMYTH/JAMES
In the final round of the 36-hole Raphael Division competition, defending champions Des Smyth and partner Mark James won again with an exciting one-stroke victory over the teams of Denis Watson/Steve Jones and Mark McCumber/Wayne Grady.
James gave his team the win when he drained a 45-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. It came moments after Jones had made an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 18th hole to get his team into a three-way tie for the lead. The victory earned James and Smyth $60,000 each in the unofficial event.
When James and Smyth defended their Raphael Division title, they became the second team this week to defend their 2011 crowns. Earlier in the week, Gibby Gilbert and J.C. Snead birdied the first playoff hole against Frank Beard and Larry Ziegler to defend their Demaret Division title.
Champions Tour Scores
Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf
Saturday, at Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, Savannah; Purse: $2.7 million; Yardage: 7,087; Par: 72
Bryant/Purtzer 60-65--125 -19
Allen/Frost 62-63--125 -19
Kite/Morgan 65-61--126 -18
North/Clampett 64-62--126 -18
Couples/Haas 63-63--126 -18
Faxon/Sluman 62-64--126 -18
Pernice/Tway 65-62--127 -17
Hallberg/Pavin 65-62--127 -17
Langer/Lehman 64-63--127 -17
Cook/Sindelar 63-64--127 -17
Bean/Lu 63-64--127 -17
Cochran/Perry 62-65--127 -17
Browne/Pate 64-64--128 -16
Fleisher/Jenkins 62-66--128 -16
Irwin/Baker-Finch 66-63--129 -15
Gallagher/Huston 66-63--129 -15
Jacobsen/Weibring 65-65--130 -14
McNulty/Eger 66-64--130 -14
Mize/Sutton 64-66--130 -14
Stadler/Goodes 65-65--130 -14
Brooks/Glasson 65-66--131 -13
Senior/Lyle 65-66--131 -13
Fergus/Levi 66-65--131 -13
Roberts/Simpson 64-67--131 -13
Hatalsky/Nelson 67-64--131 -13
Calcavecchia/Spittle 66-66--132 -12
Blake/Funk 66-66--132 -12
Gilder/Romero 66-67--133 -11
Quigley/Thorpe 67-67--134 -10
Beck/Wiebe 67-67--134 -10
Doyle/Vaughan 69-67--136 -8
Jacobs/Zoeller 67-70--137 -7
Wadkins/Wadkins 70-67--137 -7
Green H./Thompson 69-72--141 -3
Sigel/Tewell 71-71--142 -2
Final Results (Top 5)
1. Des Smyth/Mark James 64-61--125 -19
T2. Denis Watson/Steve Jones 65-61--126 -18
T2. Mark McCumber/Wayne Grady 65-61--126 -18
4. Gary Koch/Roger Maltbie 64-65--129 -15
5. Bob Murphy/Jim Colbert 67-64--131 -13
Today's Tee Times
No. 1 Tee
8:10 a.m.: Peter Jacobsen/D.A. Weibring, Mark McNulty/David Eger
8:22 Hale Irwin/Ian Baker-Finch, Jim Gallagher Jr./John Huston
8:34 Olin Browne/Steve Pate, Bruce Fleisher/Tom Jenkins
8:46 Andy Bean/Chien Soon Lu, Russ Cochran/Kenny Perry
8:58 Bernhard Langer/Tom Lehman, John Cook/Joey Sindelar
9:10 Tom Pernice Jr./Bob Tway, Gary Hallberg/Corey Pavin
9:22 Fred Couples/Jay Haas, Brad Faxon/Jeff Sluman
9:34 Tom Kite/Gil Morgan, Andy North/Bobby Clampett
9:46 Brad Bryant/Tom Purtzer, Michael Allen/David Frost
No. 10 Tee
8:10 Larry Mize/Hal Sutton, Craig Stadler/Mike Goodes
8:22 Mark Brooks/Bill Glasson, Peter Senior/Sandy Lyle
8:34 Keith Fergus/Wayne Levi, Loren Roberts/Scott Simpson
8:46 Morris Hatalsky/Larry Nelson, Mark Calcavecchia/Rod Spittle
8:58 Jay Don Blake/Fred Funk, Bob Gilder/Eduardo Romero
9:10 Dana Quigley/Jim Thorpe, Chip Beck/Mark Wiebe
9:22 Allen Doyle/Bruce Vaughan, John Jacobs/Fuzzy Zoeller
9:34 Lanny Wadkins/Bobby Wadkins, Hubert Green/Leonard Thompson
9:46 Jay Sigel/Doug Tewell