Couples back home for US Senior Open

By Associated PressJuly 29, 2010, 4:20 am

2010 U.S. Senior OpenSAMMAMISH, Wash. – Fred Couples arrived at the U.S. Senior Open this week as a tournament favorite and a hometown hero.

The Seattle native is trying for his first USGA title at any level, playing just 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Seattle public course where he learned the game growing up.

He hasn’t lived in Seattle for decades. Yet the region still considers Couples its own.

“To win here, it would rank right up there as any other tournaments probably besides Augusta,” Couples said Wednesday. “This is just like a U.S. Open; no one’s going to tell me any differently. It’s very tough out there. So to win here would be, you know, like winning a U.S. Open. And I’m from Seattle, so I would think it would be a great, great accomplishment. It would be very special for me.” 

Fred Couples
Couples looks to win in his hometown's backyard this week at Sahalee. (Getty Images)
There was a gallery waiting and autographs to sign, a scenario that plays out during nearly every momentary break Couples gets at Sahalee Country Club.

“I’ve been signing more autographs than paying any attention to the golf course,” he said.

His presence represents a perfect confluence of timing and luck. If the PGA Championship had returned to Sahalee this year as originally planned after the tournament’s lone turn as PGA host a dozen years ago, Couples would be an outsider trying to wedge his way into playing in his hometown through a special exemption.

Instead, the PGA pulled out and the USGA moved in bringing the Senior Open, which begins Thursday. This will be Couples’ first turn at a U.S. Senior Open. He turned 50 in October and became an active Champions Tour member this year.

And Couples is more than the hometown favorite. He just might be the tournament favorite, having won three times already this year on the 50-and-over circuit and finishing second twice.

“I think the important thing to know when you’re playing at home is that everyone is pulling for you, hoping the best for you,” Tom Lehman said. “That energy that they have is pushing you in a really good direction. You don’t have to live up to a certain expectation because they want the best for you. That helps you.”

But it’s also a challenge in balancing commitments and expectations. Couples served as the honorary chairmen for the event, although his main duty was putting together a youth clinic on Tuesday. There are interview requests and old friends trying to pull Couples in many directions, not to mention the endless stream of memorabilia to autograph at seemingly every turn.

“This honorary chairman stuff is a little mind-boggling but it’s over on Sunday,” Couples said.

The question remains whether Couples will be in contention come Sunday. The towering trees framing the holes at Sahalee are forcing many to rethink their strategies. Drivers off the tee are being replaced by fairway woods. Long irons are often the choice into greens that some say are the firmest they’ve seen.

Tom Watson said the greens were firmer than this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Fred Funk didn’t believe they were quite that hard. Couples simply noted he didn’t make a ball mark on any green during his Tuesday practice round.

“It’s not a golf course where you fire at the flags,” Watson said. “It’s more of a chess match where you get in position for your next shot, and that’s what makes Sahalee such a difficult course to play.”

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.