ORLANDO, Fla. -- An eagle-birdie-par finish wasn't really necessary, Fred Couples said, but it sure was welcome.
"A big, big finish," Couples said yesterday after pulling three strokes in front of the field at the halfway point of the $1 million Nestle Invitational.
"It's nice to have a cushion. Now, a mistake or two won't kill me," Couples said.
The fast finish, in 30 mph winds on greens becoming increasingly fast and firm, completed a 69 and put Couples through 36 holes at 8-under-par 136 on Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club course.
The finish put him in position to continue the most impressive streak in golf: a 9-month run in which he has won four times and finished sixth or better in 18 of 22 worldwide starts.
The conditions are such that the next two rounds will not be easy, Couples said.
"It'll be like a semi-U.S. Open with short rough," he said. "The scores might be real interesting.
"You know, it's a lot easier to shoot a good round under difficult conditions yesterday than it is on the weekend.
"I think 71 would be a good score to shoot at. If I could do that, I'll have a chance on Sunday.
"If I can stay consistent, I could have another good chance to win," said Couples, who has finished first, second and second in the last three weeks.