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Originally published Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 8:42 AM

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Couples, Sluman tied for lead at Fallen Oak

Jeff Sluman shot an 8-under 64 on Saturday to climb into a tie with Fred Couples for the second-round lead in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

AP Sports Writer

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SAUCIER, Miss. —

Jeff Sluman shot an 8-under 64 on Saturday to climb into a tie with Fred Couples for the second-round lead in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Sluman birdied five of his final seven holes in his bogey-free round to reach 11 under at Fallen Oak. Couples followed his course-record 63 in the opening round with a 70 in the second.

Couples made six birdies in a row to finish his course-record round early Saturday morning.

Jim Thorpe will join Sluman and Couples be in the final group Sunday. The 63-year-old Thorpe, two strokes back after a 65, is winless on the Champions Tour since 2007.

Most of the players had to finish their first rounds early Saturday morning before the second round began.

Couples wasn't quite as sharp in the afternoon after his early-morning birdie spree, but remains in good position to win his first Champions Tour title this year and the seventh of his career.

Couples is coming off an eighth-place tie Sunday in Newport Beach. He's scheduled to play the PGA Tour's Houston Open and the Masters the next two weeks.

Maybe the most intriguing story was the 65 shot by Thorpe, who is playing his best golf since serving a year in prison on tax evasion charges. He was released in April of last year and has been steadily improving since.

Couples was 3 under through 12 holes on Friday before the round was suspended because of darkness. He birdied his final six holes early Saturday morning for a one-stroke lead heading into the second round.

Couples' run of birdies was even more remarkable considering the 52-year-old had never even seen Fallen Oak before the first round. He had planned to play in Thursday's pro-am, but the event was canceled after the course was soaked by several inches of rain. There was so much water, he couldn't even practice.

Course conditions were nearly perfect for low scores in the morning after soaking rains at Fallen Oak earlier in the week pushed the opening round tee times back more than four hours.

Couples had 10 birdies and one bogey in his first round.

The second round proved more of a challenge for just about everyone. The drier course proved less forgiving and occasional wind gusts of up to 15 miles per hour made shots less predictable.

But Sluman maneuvered through the course without many problems. He also got a few big breaks - such as a 50-foot putt that dropped for birdie on No. 8.

Sluman is in the final group at Fallen Oak for the second straight year. The 54-year-old tied for second last year behind Tom Lehman.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP

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