- Associated Press - Thursday, October 25, 2012

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Fred Couples is sidelined by a back injury, leaving Mark Calcavecchia as the top returning finisher in the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship.

“Last year I played about as good as I could,” Calcavecchia said Thursday, “and lost by seven.”

If it wasn’t for Couples, Calcavecchia would have won by two strokes over John Cook and Tom Lehman.

Calcavecchia, Cook, Lehman, Bernhard Langer and Fred Funk are among the favorites in the 54-hole event starts Friday on TPC San Antonio’s Pete Dye-designed Canyons Course.

Couples shot a 62 in the second round last year finished at a tournament-record 25-under 193.

“I don’t see anybody shooting 25 under,” Calcavecchia said. “I hope not, because it ain’t going to be me.”

Calcavecchia, despite winning once this year and having nine other top-10 finishes, isn’t in form to shoot 25 under. He won the Montreal Championship in late June for his second Champions Tour victory, and had a string of four top-10 finishes snapped when he couldn’t crack the top 30 at the SAS Championship and the Greater Hickory Classic in his last two starts.

Calcavecchia had surgery on his right hand seven weeks ago to repair trigger finger under his ring finger. It’s a condition that limited motion in his finger so much that when he bent it, he had to grab the finger with his other hand to straighten it out.

“Not to mention it hurt,” Calcavecchia said. “And it still hurts. I can’t hit 10 or 15 balls on the range. But I take a couple of pain-killers before I play, and once I get out on the course I forget about it.”

Calcavecchia played six rounds between those two tournaments and broke 70 once. That was the last one he played, so maybe he’s about to rebound.

It would come at a good time.

The top 30 on the money list after the tournament will qualify for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz. Mark McNulty is 30th, $32,506 ahead of No. 31 Tom Kite.

Langer leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings, 111 points ahead of Lehman. The winner will get a $1 million annuity.

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