Couples Completes Comeback
The search started almost three months ago on the practice range at Pebble Beach, when he beat balls for six hours with Butch Harmon at his side.
'He's never done that in his life,' Harmon said.
It ended late Sunday afternoon at the Houston Open when Couples was flawless over the final five holes and wound up with a four-stroke victory, his first on the PGA Tour in five years and 87 tournaments.
He raised his putter in triumph. He smiled to an adoring legion of fans. He slapped hands with Mark Calcavecchia as if they had just won the Shark Shootout.
What followed made it clear there was nothing silly about this victory.
The happy-go-lucky Couples was so overwhelmed that he broke down on national TV, tugged the visor over his eyes and walked away.
'I haven't won in five years. I haven't played really well in five years,' Couples said. 'I worked hard on my game, and it meshed. I have a lot of people to thank. That's what was going through my mind. Didn't get it out very well.'
The message was never more clear.
Players in his age bracket (43) with far less ability have been winning their share of tournaments over the last five years.
Hal Sutton, who turned 45 on Monday, has won six times since 1998, including a Tour Championship and an 18-hole duel with Tiger Woods at The Players Championship.
Scott Hoch, 47, has won three times in the last three years. Mark O'Meara was 41 when he won two major championships. Bernard Langer, 45, qualified for his 10th Ryder Cup team and didn't lose a match at The Belfry.
'I have been practicing,' Couples said. 'I never really thought I'd win this quickly, but I thought I could win again if I practiced and played.'
Couples was looking for the easy way out last year when he got behind a failed proposal to start a Major Champions Tour -- eight events on classic courses for players between the ages of 37 and 55 who had won a major.
'If I play like I did last year and keep deteriorating, and the PGA Tour is tough,' Couples said at the time, 'there's nowhere for me to play golf.'
The solution wasn't a gimmick tour with guaranteed money.
The secret has always been in the dirt.
'He hadn't worked hard,' Harmon said. 'He had been fooling
A desperate Couples hooked up with Harmon during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Couples told him how terrible he had been swinging, and Harmon didn't believe it until they got to the practice range the next day.
Couples hit a few 9-irons.
'It's worse than you said,' Harmon told him.
Harmon's time already is cut thin. He still works occasionally with Woods, and his clientele includes Calcavecchia, Darren Clarke, Adam Scott, Justin Leonard, Stewart Cink, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ben Crane.
His deal with Couples: You put in the time, I'll make the time.
Not only did they spend six hours on the range, Couples went to Carlsbad, Calif., during the Match Play Championship -- even though he wasn't playing -- and worked with Harmon at the TaylorMade test center.
'That's when I knew he was serious,' Harmon said. 'He's worked his tail off ever since.'
They essentially shortened his swing, taking undue pressure off Couples' already sensitive back.
'What I had him visualize was to feel like he was coming over the top to hit a pull hook,' Harmon said. 'He had to get his arms in front of his body coming down.'
His victory in Houston moved him to No. 29 in the world ranking, which assures him of returning to the U.S. Open and likely will get him into the World Golf Championships for the first time in three years.
'A lot of people think Freddie doesn't care,' Harmon said. 'I think he showed how much it meant to him. Very seldom do you see him that emotional.'
As one of golf's most renowned swing gurus, Harmon gets his share of perks.
He has written several books and made just as many videos. He has endorsement deals with Titleist and Buick, a TV gig with Sky Sport in Britain. He operates golf schools in Las Vegas and the Bahamas.
What happened Sunday ranks among his greatest rewards.
Harmon already was emotionally spent from a funeral service for his mother-in-law over the weekend. He got home and turned on the TV in time to watch the final three holes of the Houston Open, and the brief interview that followed.
Couples started to thank his wife, Thais, and Harmon when his voice cracked and his lips quivered, and before long, tears were flowing from Houston to Las Vegas.
'I had tears in my eyes when he holed out,' Harmon said. 'Because I know how hard Freddie has worked.'
The answer was there all along.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18